Murder

We live in a violent society, one in which people are conditioned to violence not only through a history of settling disputes by individual and collective fighting but by motion pictures, television dramas, and stories in the printed media that are replete with aggression, injury, and death. Prolonged exposure to violence and violent role models without compensating exposure to nonviolent situations and models causes people to become habituated to violence and makes it more natural and easier for them to commit violent acts.

The second and third least frequent of all violent crimes, but still the ones that receive the most attention in television news and dramas, are murder and rape. According to the Uniform Crime Reports, in 1995, an estimated 21,326 persons in the United States were victims of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, "the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another" (U.S. Department of Justice, 1996, p. 13). As illustrated in Figure 12-3, both the number of murder victims and offenders peak in the late teens and early twenties. Offenders are, on the average, slightly younger than their victims, and nearly 10 times as likely to be male as female.

The murder rate also varies with race, socioeconomic status, time of year, and location. In most years, the murder rate is higher in August and December than in other months, on weekends and holidays, in the South than other areas of the country, in central cities than in suburbs or rural areas, and in the home (more women murdered in bedrooms, more men in kitchens). Murder

Age (Years)

Figure 12-3 Number of murder victims and offenders by chronological age in the United States in 1995. (Based on data from U.S. Department of Justice, 1996.)

Age (Years)

Figure 12-3 Number of murder victims and offenders by chronological age in the United States in 1995. (Based on data from U.S. Department of Justice, 1996.)

is also associated with alcohol consumption and economically prosperous times. The United States has one of the highest murder rates in the world, but it is surpassed by Colombia and Mexico (Humphreys, 1995; U.S. Department of Justice, 1996; Wright, 1997).

Sixty-eight percent of the murders in the United States in 1995 were committed with firearms, 12.7% with knives or other cutting instruments, and 5.9% with personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.). Over 88% of the victims of male murderers were males, but only 9% of the victims of female murderers were females. Over 93% of the victims of black murderers were blacks. Of the murders committed in the United States in 1995,83% occurred during robberies, narcotics law violations, or other felonies: 53% were committed during arguments or other nonfelonious acts; in the remaining 29%, the circumstances were not known (US. Department of Justice, 1996).

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