The U.S. Department of Justice states that 22% of all persons arrested in 1998 were female. Darrell Steffensmeier (1996) calls the gender gap in crime "universal": men are more likely to commit criminal acts than men. There are several hypotheses as to the reasons behind this disparity, however they largely boil down to whether the difference is genetic or sociological. Atavistic theories of the 19th century describe female criminals as having male tendencies. The "gender equality" hypothesis suggests that as men's and women's roles in society become more similar, the rates of criminal activity will also become more equal. Mears, Ploeger, and Warr (1998) suggest that men and women may react differently to the same influencing factors. Katherine Ramsland (2005) suggests that most crimes committed by women may be acts of defense.
Why do women seem to be less aggressive than men? How much of the difference can be attributed to the relative size of men and women? If this is the case, woman-on-woman crime would seem to be more common than woman-on-man crime, but these statistics aren't easy to find. Do woman have a more developed moral sense or are they more fearful of consequences? Is there a substantial difference between the two? The study of female criminals is usually approached with a certain sense of titillation and novelty. See Jane Hit, James Garbarino tends toward the theory that greater social equality leads to more crime committed by women, but focuses on ways to serve just this population. It seems that if the cause is more social equality, and the influencing factors are similar, society would be better served by reducing these factors for men and women, rather than spending energy wondering how to make women harmless again.