The reasons for America’s homicide rate

The reasons for America’s homicide rate

Homicide and crime have been amongst the greatest concerns of the American people since the beginning of the twentieth century. It is postulated that the homicide rates in America are significantly higher compared to other parts of the world especially Western Europe. Despite this, homicide in America has been on the decline for a long time now. For instance in 2009, the crime rate was estimated to have hit a low that was recorded back in 1968. 2009 recorded the lowest homicide rates ever recorded since 1964. However, the crime rates within the United States are still higher when compared to other countries (Effgen “FBI Uniform Crime Reports”). Perhaps the reasons of this variation in crime rates can be credited to a number of reasons that set the United States apart from other countries. Furthermore, the media has also played a major role in shaping current public perception of crime within the United States. The high percentage of the population that is incarcerated also paints a picture different to what is really on the ground. Despite this, the higher homicide rates in the United States can be attributed to social factors, psychological factors as well as drug abuse, although contrary to popular belief, the homicide rates within the United States are declining compared to previous years (United States Bureau of Justice Statistics “Prisoners in 2008”).
The first cause of higher homicide statistics is the social problems that people are experiencing. Homicide is believed to be nurtured and raised in areas where people live in squalid economic conditions. Both the victims and the perpetrators are believed to hail from these impoverished regions of the country. For instance San Mateo County in California, despite having a low population, it reported higher numbers of homicide in 2001. It is argued that most of these cases of homicide were reported in the regions are which are the poorest in the county. This poor region recorded six deaths out of the seventeen that were recorded in the whole county. Despite the smaller number of people in this poor region, the numbers of homicides were one third of all the cases reported in the county. This then shows that poverty may be a driving force for most people to engage in violent crime in an attempt to meet their basic necessities (Bureau of Justice Statistics “Prisoners in 2002”). Furthermore, poverty usually co-occurs with social disorganization, which then translates to limited social control, and as a result increased crime as well as homicide. This lack of cohesion can also be used to explain why crime rates are higher within metropolitan areas compared to the suburbs.
Secondly, homicide in America can also be greatly attributed to the use of drugs. Most of the drugs taken in high doses by the offenders are mostly psycho active drugs. It is believed that were it not for the use of drugs, most of the homicide crimes would be averted. The main reason for this is that the drugs make an individual to think illogically especially after combining the drugs with other intoxicants (Fosdick 013). Surprisingly, the individuals who engage in homicide after taking drugs have no prior motivation to commit the offence. It is estimated that most of the people who report to hospital for violent injuries have been associated with the use of this drug (Macdonald, Wells,Giesbrecht& Cherpitel 061). The main reason advanced for the high incidence of homicide in the people who use psychoactive drugs is that the drugs impair the part of the brain that is needed for logical thinking and judgment(Senay & Wettstein “Drugs and homicide”). Further, with the impairment of the part of the brain that ensures logical thinking and judgment impaired, a number of individuals usually lose their inhibitions and develop an urge to engage in risky behavior, with some opting for violence (Macdonald, Wells,Giesbrecht& Cherpitel 61). At times the drugs themselves act as motivation for committing crimes. For example, in an attempt to obtain the resources to engage in the filthy but addictive habit, one may even find themselves committing murder.
Thirdly, the other cause of homicide in the US is mental illnesses. People with mental illnesses are more predisposed to commit homicide and other crimes because their objective thinking capacity is compromised. It is estimated that by 2009, there were about forty five million adults who had mental illnesses in the US. At the same time, an estimated 547,800 people were put into probation centers for being mentally unstable. Although the number of mentally sick people does not necessarily mean increased homicide rates, these mental illnesses combined with drug abuse may aggravate the numbers of homicide cases. By the year 1998, the numbers of mentally ill people held in federal prisons in America was about 283,800(Jenkins 003). About sixteen percent of the inmates in the state prisons were said to be having mental illnesses (Bureau of Justice Statistics “Prisoners in 2002”). Markowitz (2010) disagrees with this assessment, and argues that mental illness on its own, cannot really cause violence. He proceeds to posit that the socio-cultural context within which violence occurs is usually quite important, as factors such as certain psychotic symptoms as well as socio-demographic factors usually play an integral role in the causation of violence. Findings by a number of researchers such as Hiday (1997) seem to support the assertions by Markowitz, seemingly suggesting that there is a need for further exploration of the exact role of mental illness in the rising homicide rates within the United States. Hiday actually argues that under no circumstances can mental illness independently cause violence and therefore by extension significantly affect the rates of homicide as recorded. If anything, the two researchers concur that such suggestions paint the wrong picture about mental illness and therefore serve to sway public perception in an undesirable direction.
From the above discussions, it is evident that homicide is present in America. Some of the causes of the homicide cases in this region include; the social status of the individual, mental health and the use of drugs by the offenders, although the exact role of mental illness when it comes to increasing homicide and violence rates is eliciting much debate. Despite all these, America has made strides in the reduction of homicide cases over time. As much as the country records high numbers as compared to the regions of the world as seen from the discussion, the country has made strides in reducing the numbers within the country. For instance the homicide rates dropped from 9.8 homicides in 1991 to about 5.5 homicides per a hundred thousand people in 2009. This further reduced to 4.8 by the year 2010, suggesting that even though the causes are yet to be comprehensively addressed, the rates of homicide in the United States are showing signs of being in decline. This is even more so if compared to statistics for previous years (Effgen “FBI Uniform Crime Reports”).Specifically, mental illness as a cause can be addressed very simply. The first step would be to reinstitutionalize individuals suffering from mental illness and reverse the losses brought about by strict laws on involuntary admission. Secondly and perhaps the most urgent, is the need to change public perceptions on the relationship between mental illness and crime, as the accompanying stigmatization leads to a fear of seeking medical attention.

Works cited
Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Prisoners in 2002”.2002 PDF.
Effgen,Christopher. “FBI Uniform Crime Reports”.Disastercenter.com. 2012 Web.
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Fosdick, Raymond.“American Police Systems”.The Century Company.Pp. 13.1920 Print.
Hiday, Virginia. Understanding the Connection between Mental Illness and Violence. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 20.4,(1997), 399-417.
Jenkins, P. (1988). “Myth And Murder: The Serial Killer Panic Of 1983-1985”. Criminal
Justice Research Bulletin. Pp.1-7. 1998 Print.
Macdonald, S., Wells, S., Giesbrecht, N. & Cherpitel CJ. (June 1, 1999). “Demographic
And Substance Use Factors Related To Violent And Accidental Injuries: Results from an Emergency Room study”. Pp.53–61. 1999 Print.
Mrkowitz, Fred. Mental Illness, Crime and Violence: Risk, Context and Social Control. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 16(2011), 36-44.
Senay, C & Wettstein, R.“Drugs and homicide: a theory”. Oct 12, 1983 Print.
Takeichi, S., Nakajima, Y., & Osawa M. “A Case of Homicidal Poisoning Involving
Several Drugs”.Journal of Analytical Toxicology. Pp. 1–7.1997 Print
United States Bureau of Justice Statistics.“Prisoners in 2008”. United States Department
Of Justice. April 3, 2010 Print.

 

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