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According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is made up of four offenses, including rape, robbery, murder, and aggravated assault (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 1). These crimes are generally characterized by the use of threat of force or force. Data available on violent crime emanate from the police investigators and not any findings by courts, coroners, or any other relevant authorities. All police departments collect data on violent crimes to capture state-by-state situations. Although four types of offenses are considered under violent crime, this research only concentrates on murder, rape, and robbery.
Murder is a deliberate killing of a person, and it is not associated with self-defense or any other possible extenuating circumstances that may be used under the law. On the contrary, manslaughter differs from murder, but it is still an unlawful act of killing, which usually happens without prior plans or intentions. Negligence reflects a failure to provide sufficient care and, thus, accidents that do cause deaths are not classified under violent crime. In this regard, deaths that result from suicide, accidents, negligence, justifiable homicide (killing a dangerous suspect while on duty), or attempted murder does not constitute violent crime collected by the government. Rape entails a non-consensual, forcible sexual intercourse while robbery is forced possession of other people’s belongings. All these cases are characterized by force or threat of violence. It is imperative to recognize that the FBI has adjusted the definition of rape. The revised definition states rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim” (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 1). The FBI UCR Program eliminated the term ‘forcible’.
Strangers or people well known to the victims, including an intimate partner, a relative, a friend, or an acquaintance may commit violent crime. Also, offenders often prey on the weak marginalized people in society, including individuals with disabilities (Cook par. 1).
The FBI observed that after two years of declines in violent crimes in the US, in the year 2015, however, an increment of 3.9 percent was recorded relative to the year 2014 (about 1,197,704 violent crimes took place nationwide) (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 3). It is imperative to note that this overall figure accounts for other crimes, such as property crimes. The overall approximated rate of violent crime was noted as 372.6 offenses for every 100,000 persons (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 3). The FBI also observed that the rate of violent crime increased by 3.1 percent in the year 2015 compared with the rate recorded in the year 2014 (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 3).
Violent Crime Prevalence
In the year 2015, 15,696 cases of murder were reported throughout the US (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 4). This figure did not account for justifiable homicide. The reported cases of murder represented an increment of 10.8% as compared with the rate recorded in the year 2014. Further, this current figure also shows an increment of 7.1% compared with the year 2011, but a significant decline of 9.3% compared with the year 2006. During the same year, 4.9 murder cases were reported for every 100,000 persons. It was also observed that the murder rate increased by 10.0% compared with the year 2014 and 3.8% relative to the year 2011. Nevertheless, a comparison with the year 2006 showed a decline rate of 15.5%. Of all the reported cases of murder in the US, the South recorded 45.9%, the Midwest had about 21.5%, the West had 20.2%, and the Northeast had the lowest rate of 12.4 percent (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 4). It is also imperative to note the UCR Program may provide expanded data on murder (Truman and Langton 1-19). Such data may account for the weapon used, age, sex, religion, areas, and occupations among others.
For every case of rape, the UCR program considers it as a single offense per victim, attempted rape, or an attack with the intent to rape, irrespective of the age of the victim. It is imperative to recognize that data collected include sexual relations without consent from the victim, including familial rapists (such cases are not incest). Besides, only arrest data are considered in the statistics. Still, when the female victim is under the age of consent, but the offense is considered as statutory rape, the data are then included in the arrest total under sex offenses (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 4). Based on the previous definition of rape, there were approximately 90,185 cases, which the police recorded in the year 2015. It was observed that the figure was relatively higher (6.3%) compared with the year 2014, an increment of 7.1% compared with the year 2011, and a decline of 4.5% relative to the year 2006. These figures captured assaults or attempts aimed at raping, but not incest or statutory rape.
Data for robbery were based on the use of force or threat of force, or violence and/or scaring the victim to possess their belongings. During the year 2015, the US recorded about 327,374 robberies (Federal Bureau of Investigation par. 2). An increment of 1.4% was observed if the figure was compared with the previous year’s estimate, but it represented a decline of 7.7% relative to the year 2011. Also, when the figure for the year 2015 was compared with the figure obtained in 2006, then a significant drop of 27.1% was attained. For every 100,000 persons, their rate of the robbery was 101.9%, which was a marginal increment of 0.6% relative to the rate of the year 2014. In 2015, every reported robbery accounted for an average dollar value of $1,190 of the stolen property. Robberies were responsible for losses amounting to $390 million. Specifically, banks were the biggest casualties of robberies with an estimated average loss of $3,884 for every case. In the reported cases, robbers applied strong-arm tactics in 42.2% of the cases, firearms accounted for 40.8% while cutting objects or knives were responsible for 7.9%. Besides, robbers had dangerous weapons in 9.1% of the cases in the year 2015.
Criminologists have devoted much research to understand why people commit crimes from misdemeanors to violent offenses (Lee and Choi 99-106). While some offenders may be rehabilitated, some unfortunately become repeat offenders irrespective of punishments administered (Chettiar par. 4). The environment has been considered to understand its role in the crime. Specifically, criminology tends to focus on crimes and assess why certain people demonstrate criminal behaviors. By comprehending factors that lead to crime, solutions can be found to control crimes. Consequently, theories of crime have been introduced to assist society to understand crime and criminals. Some theories (choice theory and classical theory) link crime to individuals. Other theories (conflict theory and critical theory) attribute crime to the community when it fails to provide a safe and secure environment. Still, other theories, such as labeling and life course theory, attribute crime to specific situations individuals face based on their traits. While theories are varied, they all attempt to explain the factors responsible for the crime.
A Matter of Perspective
Violent crime is a matter of perspective. Donald Trump, for instance, has asserted that America is now “a more dangerous environment for everyone” (Dance and Meagher par. 6). On the contrary, President Obama responded and pointed out that the crime rates were as low as they have been in decades (Dance and Meagher par. 7). These diverse observations show that violent crime or any other crime is a great political issue. Significantly, politicians have used such issues to drive their agenda and influence public perception in a specific direction. As such, it becomes difficult for the public to determine who is right. On this note, data collected on violent crime are extremely important. According to the prevalence of violent crime based on data provided by the FBI, President Obama is correct when he says, “violent crime is near an all-time low” (Dance and Meagher par. 7). Since 2006, the US rate of violent crime has declined than at any period since the 1970s (Dance and Meagher par. 7).
Christopher Jencks (par. 1) conducted a thorough analysis to determine the real facts behind violent crime rates. The police provide crime estimate data within their jurisdiction. They then compile and forward all these data to relevant stakeholders, including the FBI and local news media for public consumption. The FBI uses these data to estimate the rate of violent crimes ‘known to the police’ across all states. The current FBI data suggest that violent crime has risen by 3.9 percent relative to the year 2014 after recording a decline in the previous years. Taken at face value, this percentage increment may support Trump’s claim of a dangerous environment. Before admitting this finding, however, it is imperative to explore the data further. Data provided by the FBI are not estimates of violent crimes committed within the year. Instead, they only capture violent crimes ‘known to the police’. This implies that only reported cases or those seen by the police are eventually analyzed by the FBI. Likewise, any complaints that fail to be captured in the police database will ultimately not reach the FBI for analysis. As opposed to rape and robbery, one can easily define murder, and it is difficult to conceal and adequately grave to warrant a thorough police investigation. Consequently, most experts in criminology agree that data provided on murder are more thorough than data presented on other violent crimes, such as robbery, rape, and assault. This implies that data on murder and victimization results, therefore, are more consistent and reliable. Hence, they can be used to determine changes in violent crime rates across cities.
Violent crime, especially rape, murder, and robbery, still affects millions of Americans each year. The FBI provides data on violent crimes to allow Americans to understand trends of such crimes in society. Data reveal significant improvements in the decline of crime since the 1970s, albeit fluctuation on year-over-year. The trend of murder perhaps is the best approach to understand whether violent crimes decline or increase because of its consistency.
Chettiar, Inimai M. “The Many Causes of America’s Decline in Crime.” The Atlantic. 2015. Web.
Cook, Lindsey. “Americans with Disabilities More Often Victims of Violent Crimes.” US News. 2015. Web.
Dance, Gabriel and Tom Meagher. Crime in Context. 2016. Web.
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Federal Bureau of Investigation. Violent Crime. 2015. Web.
Jencks, Christopher. “Is Violent Crime Increasing?” The American prospect. 1991. Web.
Lee, Ju-Lak and Kwan Choi. “Serial Murder: An Exploration and Evaluation of Theories and Perspectives.” American International Journal of Contemporary Research 4.3 (2014): 99-106. Print.
Truman, Jennifer L. and Lynn Langton. Criminal Victimization, 2014. 2015. Web.