Category: violent crime

Murder rates plummet . . . but why?

U.S. Violent Crime Rate, U.S. Justice Department Statistics, 1973-2010

By Alan Bean

Ask most people if violent crime rates are rising or dropping and most will pick the pessimistic option.  The chart above shows how dramatically violent crime rates have been dropping since the early 1990s.  If you get most of your information from watching television, you’d think the nation was drowning in a tidal wave of blood.  Sex and violence, often in lurid combination, grab and hold the attention of prime time viewers, so that’s what we get, all the time.  The more bizarre, twisted and disturbing the better.  The acting and story lines in the Sopranos, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad are unsurpassed, but minus the gratuitous violence,  these programs would lose much of their audience appeal.  The entertainment world’s fascination with serial murder is particularly over the top.

Falling crime rates are bad for the ratings, but the latest outrage is a sure headline grabber.  So the average American can be forgiven for thinking that crime is getting worse every year.

Perceptions of Trend in Crime Problem Nationally -- 1989-2011


Murder rate soars in Chicago; what can be done?

By Alan Bean

There were 506 homicides in Chicago last year, a 16% increase over 2011.   That amounts to 10.83 homicides per year per 100,000 population.  The rate in New York City is 2.72, which is just over half the national average of 4.8.

Homicide rates fluctuate wildly, historically and regionally.  Chicago’s homicide rate is about one-third as high as New Orleans (America’s true murder capital).  The Crescent City was plagued with 32.65 homicides per 100,000 population last year, and Detroit (27.38) and Baltimore (18.22) weren’t far behind.  These rates make Chicago look downright pacific.

Speaking of the Pacific, the homicide rate in Los Angeles last year was 4.19  but Oakland’s rate was over three times as high (15.89).

Homicide rates also vary radically by nation and continent.  Some Central America countries have rates in the 90s, while European countries hover between 1 and 2 homicides per 100,000.  Canada is 1.6; Mexico is 22.7. (more…)

Who made James Holmes do it?

I like the balance in this piece.  The NRA didn’t turn James Holmes into a killer.  The Tea Party is not to blame.  Batman didn’t make it happen and neither did the ACLU or the liberal churches of America.  When tragedy strikes, we want to make sense of things, we want to blame somebody.  But as the Joker explained to Batman in an earlier Dark Knight film: “some men just want to watch the world burn.”  AGB

Did Liberals Make James Holmes a Mass-Murderer?

Any suggestion that a cold-blooded killer is God’s agent to punish a wicked land is simply wicked.

By Greg Garrett, July 25, 2012

When tragedy strikes, we always, always, want to know why. If there’s a reason, some one to blame, then tragedy is not mindless.

It fits into a pattern.

It makes some kind of senseless sense.

Why did James Holmes shoot 70 people last Friday?

I don’t know why, and neither do you. The words of Alfred (Michael Caine) in The Dark Knight (2008) in relation to the Joker (Heath Ledger) have been bouncing around the Interwebs as we wrestle with the question: “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” (more…)

The myth of redemptive violence

This article originally appeared in the Red Letter Weekly.

By Shaine Claiborne

I had a veteran friend once tell me, “The biggest lie I have ever been told is that violence is evil, except in war.”  He went on, “My government told me that.  My Church told me that.  My family told me that… I came back from war and told them the truth – ‘Violence is not evil, except in war… Violence is evil – period’.”

Every day it seems like we are bombarded with news stories of violence – a shooting in Colorado, a bus bombing in Bulgaria, drones gone bad and the threat of a nuclear Iran, a civil war in Syria, explosions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This week’s cover story of Time magazine is — “One a Day” — showing that soldier suicides are up to one per day, surpassing the number of soldiers that die in combat. The US military budget is still rising — over 20,000 dollars a second, over 1 million dollars a minute spent on war, even as the country goes bankrupt.

Our world is filled with violence – like a plague, an infection, a pandemic of people killing people, and people killing themselves.  In my city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, we have nearly one homicide a day – and in this land of the free we have over 10,000 homicides a year.

Today, Barack Obama called the shooting in Colorado “evil”.  And he is right.

But perhaps it is also time that we declare that violence is evil, everywhere – period.  It’s obvious that killing folks in a movie theater is sick and deranged, but the question arises – is violence ever okay? (more…)

Listening to Broderick’s aunt

patterson outburstBy Alan Bean

Americans of a conservative bent are having a hard time with the Trayvon Martin saga.  The story suggests serious flaws in our system of criminal justice.  The conservative mind has no problem with George Zimmerman stalking a young man he considered suspicious and isn’t troubled by the fact that Zimmerman killed an unarmed man yet wasn’t arrested. 

But there are also narratives that those of the liberal persuasion tend to ignore because they reinforce the punitive consensus.  Take, for instance, the story of  Broderick Patterson, an eighteen year old Black male who was recently sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Eric Forrester, a seventeen year old White male.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has been following the story for the past two years.

The Black-on-White nature of the slaying conforms to a familiar pattern, but this case goes deeper than that.  When the sentence was handed down, young Broderick directed a profane tirade (see the article below) at everyone associated with his sad fate.  The jury received the brunt of his venom. (more…)

Gonzalez: “There’s a Rapist in Lincoln Park!”

By Derek Gonzalez

There’s a rapist in Lincoln Park!

Here, we have a song that has permeated popular culture in the last year. This song has real emotion in it because it is an auto-tuned version of Antoine Dodson’s account of what happened. In Huntsville, AL, a man climbed through the window of Antoine’s 2nd story apartment to steal things, but then he turned into an opportunistic rapist and tried to rape Kelly Dodson in her bed. After she screamed, her brother Antoine came into the room and threw the guy off of his sister. (Gentle, 2010). The perpetrator then fled out of the window, leaving behind his shirt, fingerprints, and shoe prints on a trashcan. (“Antoine dodson warns,” 2010). Although the song was made by the Gregory Brothers to help get the message out on this family’s trauma, there was also some backlash; many people thought that it was fake when it first came out, myself included. There were even people commenting on the videos with such hateful remarks like “why would anyone rape this black monkey c–t? She wanted it”. In fact, the news reporters who reported this story were given pressure from the community of Huntsville not to broadcast this because they felt that Antoine speaking would give the community a bad image. The main issue here, though, was that Kelly Dodson was almost raped. This song really speaks to people because it’s catchy, full of emotion, and talks about something that has never been put into a song: rape. (more…)

Were the Tulsa shootings racially motivated?

By Melanie Wilmoth Navarro

As of yesterday, two suspects have confessed to the Tulsa, Oklahoma shootings that left two injured and three dead over the Easter weekend.  The two suspects — Jacob England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32 — were arrested Sunday morning and confessed shortly after their arrest.

Late Thursday, According to the New York Times, England wrote an angry post on his Facebook page about the deaths of his father and fiancée:

Mr. England’s father, Carl, was shot on April 5, 2010, at an apartment complex…and the man who was a person of interest in the case, Pernell Jefferson, is serving time at an Oklahoma state prison.

Mr. England is a Native American who has also described himself as white.  Mr. Jefferson is black.

“Today is two years that my dad has been gone,” Mr. England wrote, and then used a racial epithet to describe Mr. Jefferson. “It’s hard not to go off between that and sheran I’m gone in the head,” he added, referring to the recent suicide of his 24-year-old fiancée, Sheran Hart Wilde. “RIP. Dad and sheran I Love and miss u I think about both of u every second of the day.”

Hours later, England and his roommate, Watts, drove a pickup through a predominately black neighborhood in Tulsa and started to randomly shoot pedestrians.  Mr. England admitted to shooting three of the victims and Mr. Watts admitted to shooting the other two.

Many within the Tulsa community believe the actions of England and Watts were racially motivated.

The city of Tulsa has a history of racial tension.  In 1921, the city was the site of one of the deadliest race riots in U.S. history.  The riots began when a young black man was arrested after he was accused of sexually harassing a white woman.  His arrest sparked a violent confrontation between the black and white communities.  According to documents from the Tulsa Historical Society:

In the early morning hours of June 1, 1921, Black Tulsa was looted and burned by white rioters.  Governor Robertson declared martial law, and National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa.  Guardsmen assisted firemen in putting out fires, took imprisoned blacks out of the hands of vigilantes and imprisoned all black Tulsans not already interned.  Over 6,000 people were held at the Convention Hall and the Fairgrounds, some for as long as eight days.

Twenty-four hours after the violence erupted, it ceased.  In the wake of the violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred ruins.

Historians estimate that over 300 people were killed in the riot and more than 8,000 were left homeless.

Now, 91 years after the deadly riot, race relations in Tulsa remain rocky.  Many, including the Tulsa NAACP chapter and Tulsa City Council member Jack Henderson, want the gunmen to be prosecuted for a hate crime.

“Somebody that committed these crimes were very upset with black people,” said Jack Henderson, “That person happened to be a white person. The people that they happened to kill and shoot were black people — that fits the bill for me.”

Police officials and prosecutors, however, say it is still too early in the investigation to call the shooting rampage a hate crime.