Chapter 1 Powerpoint

Criminal Violence: Patterns,
Causes, and
Riedel and Welsh, Ch. 1
“Violence and Criminal
Defining Violence and Criminal
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 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
State laws vary widely in terms of definitions
and penalties.
The “Social Construction” of
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)
Problems are often exaggerated or distorted.
Perspectives on Criminal Violence
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
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,
 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
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.

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