Criminal Violence: Patterns, Causes, and Prevention Riedel and Welsh, Ch. 1 “Violence and Criminal Violence” Defining Violence and Criminal Violence Violence: “behavior by persons against persons that intentionally threatens, attempts, or actually inflicts physical harm.” Criminal Violence: violence prohibited by criminal law. Many other types of violence are not illegal, but some people believe they should be illegal. Turning Violence into Criminal Violence Violence becomes “criminal” violence only through the passage of laws that prohibit specific behaviors and provide sanctions. Consensus v. Conflict Model of Criminal Law Consensus (e.g., homicide): most people agree by and large on what is right or wrong. Conflict (e.g., drug abuse): people with political and economic power make laws that protect their own interests. State laws vary widely in terms of definitions and penalties. The “Social Construction” of Violence Violence is “socially constructed”: certain problems are perceived, and decisions are made to focus attention and resources on a particular problem. A “problem” is identified as a result of social interaction: 1) perception, 2) advocacy, and 3) action. Problems are often exaggerated or distorted. Perspectives on Criminal Violence 1. 2. 3. Criminology: seeks to explain criminal or delinquent behavior, and the effects of lawbreaking on social behavior more generally (e.g., deterrence). Criminal Justice: focuses on the processes and decisions within criminal justice agencies. Public Health: focus is on reducing the probability (risk) of harm. Emphasis is on prevention (reducing risk factors) rather than reaction. Distinctions Between CJ and Public Health How is Criminal Violence Studied? Methods used to study violence: NCVS: example of a victimization survey used to study violence Official statistics (e.g., crimes reported to police; arrests; school & hospital records) Interviews (w/offenders and victims) Participant Observation (e.g., gang studies) Challenges of Violence Research Legal categories are not necessarily the best or most useful for scientific study. Violence is statistically rare (e.g., Louisiana 527 murders in 2008, a rate of 11.9 per 100,000) It is not easy to observe (e.g., family violence) It is difficult to measure: many data come from secondary sources (e.g., police statistics). Many crimes go unreported, and even if reported crimes do not always result in an arrest (e.g., even homicide has “clearance rate” of only 63%). A Tripartite Approach: Patterns, Causes, and Interventions Patterns: Who is involved? Where? How much, how often? Trends over time? What data are available, and what do they tell us? Causes: attempts to explain violence based on observed patterns Individual (e.g., personality traits) Group (e.g., roles and relationships in a family, a gang) Organizational (e.g., use of discretion by officials in police, courts, corrections) Community (e.g., cohesiveness, behavioral dynamics) Social structure: distribution of wealth and power in a society Culture: shared attitudes and values regarding education, crime, sexuality, family, etc. Interventions: programs and policies that attempt to reduce specific types of violence. Interventions should be consistent with both observed patterns and explanations. Failure to do so increases the likelihood of failed interventions. What Lies Ahead? First three chapters provide the “tools” for understanding and exploring violence (e.g., definitions, measures, historical perspective, major theories). Subsequent chapters examine types of violence using the tripartite approach.