Posts Tagged ‘Homicide’

Police fatalities are declining, not rising

September 4, 2015

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There is no epidemic of killings of police officers.  As the charts above and the links below indicate, the number of killings is declining.

Of course any death of a police officer in the line of duty is a tragedy, just like the death of a firefighter or any other public servant, and, in addition to being an individual tragedy, the killing of a law enforcement officer is an attack on the fabric of law and justice.

Just as an unjustified killing by a police officer also is an attack on the fabric of law and justice.

But it is not a worsening problem, as certain politicians and commentators claim.

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Americans are becoming better-behaved

April 2, 2015

Americans—that is, average Americans, not necessarily Hollywood stars, sports stars and the financial and governmental elite—are becoming better-behaved.

  • Homicide rates are down.
  • Domestic violence is down.
  • Child abuse is down
  • Cocaine use is down (although marijuana use is up)
  • Alcoholism is down
  • Drunk driving is down.
  • Cigarette smoking is down.
  • Illicit drug use by teenagers is down.
  • Alcohol use by teenagers is down.
  • Cigarette smoking by teenagers is down.
  • Teenage pregnancy is down.

The main exception to these trends is that Americans are slower to get married than in the past and quicker to become divorced.  But maybe it is better to be unmarried or divorced than in a bad or abusive marriage.

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‘I was scared’ is never an excuse for homicide

December 5, 2014

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“I was afraid” is no more a justification for the taking of a human life than “I was drunk” would be.

The right of self-defense should only apply to those whose lives are in actual danger, not those reacting to an imaginary danger.

People who kill by reason of irrational panic, like people who kill in the heat of anger, should be charged with a lesser degree of homicide than those who kill in cold blood.   That’s mitigation, not an excuse.

If you are driving an automobile, there can be circumstances—say, a pedestrian jumping out right in front of you—when there there is nothing you can do to avoid a fatal accident.  But pulling the trigger of a firearm is always a choice.

No one who takes an innocent life with a firearm, whether deliberately, by accident or by mistake, should be allowed to own or handle a firearm ever again.

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Why is the American homicide rate declining?

June 7, 2011

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Violent crime is on the decline in the United States.   The rise in crime during the 1960s and the continuing high violent crime rate in the 1970s and 1980s was an important issue during those years, despite the effort of some liberals to imply “law and order” was a code word for something else.  But current statistics indicate a violent crime rate as low as in the 1950s.

Nobody really understands why.

Some popular theories:

(1)  The United States has a high proportion of violent and potentially violent criminals behind bars and not on the street.

(2)  Legal abortion means there are fewer unwanted children to grow up to become alienated, violent adults.

(3)  Violent crime is a young man’s game, and the aging of the baby boom generation means a smaller proportion of the population in the crime-prone years.

I don’t claim to know the answer myself, but I wonder whether the ban on lead-based paint is a factor.  Scientific studies indicate that lead in a child’s bloodstream is linked to lower IQ and loss of neural motor functions, leading to impulsiveness, lack of self-control and anti-social behavior. Children in poor areas of large cities are prone to touching walls with peeling paint, and then licking their fingers, and they are exposed to environmental lead in other ways.

Somebody wrote a letter to the editor some weeks back in City newspaper, Rochester’s alternative weekly, saying that a principal of one of Rochester’s elementary schools once had the children in the school tested for levels of lead in their blood.  Every single one had elevated levels of blood.  I wonder what a test would show today.  I hope it would show improvement.

Another factor may be the religious revival of the past 20 or so years.  Religion, especially the more strict and conservative versions of religion, give people a sense of meaning, a community to belong to, help in maintaining self-control and self-respect based on something else besides violence.  Some historians credit religious revivals for the decline of crime in 19th century Britain and the United States. The same thing may be going on today.

Some people suggest that local police departments have simply become more restrictive in the way they report violent crime, and that actual crime may be higher than the figures indicate.  I don’t see how this would be possible.  There is leeway in deciding whether to report a crime as grand theft auto or unauthorized use of an automobile, but a killing is a killing.  I don’t see how selective reporting could mask it as something else.

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