The Criminal Homicide Rate for the United States
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The criminal homicide rate for the United States is currently at its lowest rate during the last forty years (6.3 per 100,000 people in 1998: Bureau of Justice Statistics); yet according to the media and entertainment fields, homicide is reaching epidemic proportions. Unfortunately these fields tend to exploit the concept of homicide in American society, rather than attempting to understand and control it. No where is this more prevalent than in the study of a small subset of criminal homicide referred to as serial murder. This area of serial homicide specifically refers to the murder of several victims by a single person, generally unknown to the victim, over a designated period of time. Serial murder and those who commit it have always been around but have only really come to national attention in the last thirty years. Since the 1970’s people have been fascinated with and horrified by serial murderers. Despite the enormous amount of coverage of serial killers by video and print media, television, and movies, relatively few sources of information about them exist and even less is known. The details of ones crimes tend to be sensationalized, making rationalization very difficult, but what is lost among the horror and gore are the motives and reasons that lead a person to do this. What causes a person to kill again and again?
An attempt to explain, rationalize and predict has plagued law enforcement and medical personnel for a considerable amount of time. If law enforcement is to create proactive, rather than reactive, strategies to this type of criminal behavior then they must be able to understand why it happens. Unfortunately we still do not have a clear understanding for the motives of murder, thus making understanding serial murder that much more difficult. Coming to any definite conclusions or making any definitive statements is not currently possible, the best that experts can do is make broad generalizations and educated guesses. Current literature on the subject comes to a number of fairly educated (and a few non-educated) conclusions that help to explain serial murder. Only a relatively few studies have been done that include in-depth first hand interviews with the perpetrators of the crimes themselves. This analysis of past offenders has elicited several key behavioral and childhood similarities among this sub-group of homicide perpetrators including: physical and psychological abuse, neglect, and violent fantasy creations. These conclusions tend to dominate the study of serial murder and its creation, often neglecting other possible contributions. This data brings up the question then of why only a handful of the many abused children become serial murderers. This and other theories of childhood socialization, including a critical analysis of current ideas and theories regarding the construction of serial murderers, are the focus of the following work.
Due to the inability of professionals to reach a uniform consensus on the definition of serial murder, those murderers in whose homicides involve trolling, or roaming and lust (those who murder for the sheer desire of it)(Keeney & Heide, 1995) will be the focus of this work. For the purposes of this paper, nurses who murder patients, contract killers and babysitters or parents who murder children, as well as other similar such types of multiple murder, will be eliminated because they are currently not considered within the field of serial murder.
First-degree homicide, or murder, is defined as “intending or knowing that the person’s conduct will cause death, such person causes the death of another with premeditation” (ARS 13-1105). The key points being intending and premeditation. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (FBI UCR), the two federal record keepers of criminal reported activity, just under 17,000 people were victims of homicide in 1998. Of those, only twenty two percent (3,800) were women murdered by men. The most likely victim of homicide is a young male (18-24 years old); three times more likely than a female of the same age bracket (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999). Mental illness or abnormality has been examined as a possible corollary to violent criminal acts, though research currently shows that there exists “no pattern matching any psychiatric diagnosis category with…criminal violent behavior” (Steadman, 1987). It must be emphasized that there exists no general or specific relationship between violent crime and mental disorders. In most issues involving the prediction of criminal violence, mental illness remains rather irrelevant.
Child socialization, or the way in which a child is raised (including home environment, parental interaction, and parent-child interaction), influences and shapes the individuals behavior (Akers, 1998), and has been used as a corollary to violent activity. If violence is used