Homicide and Violent Crime: Volume 23

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Table of contents

(17 chapters)
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Part I Family and Gender


Purpose – This chapter aims to present an overview of what constitutes child murder, including definitions, history, prevalence, risk factors, offender motivations, and theoretical understanding.

Design/methodology/approach – The author uses secondary data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System, Uniformed Crime Reports, and Vital Statistics to show comparisons with previously conducted research. This allows for an overview of child murder.

Findings – There are numerous inconsistencies due to methodological issues. It is hard to find studies where a large sample was used. Definitions of child vary between studies, as does the age categories used. In addition, child homicide is predicted to be grossly underrepresented due to lack of communication between agencies, lack of formalized training, lack of a formalized classification system, and lack of reporting.

Originality/value – Research on child homicide can be instrumental in many areas including policy creation, implementation, and evaluation. It can serve as a benefit for those attempting to provide preventative measures. It may also help law enforcement with investigation. It is only through continued analysis of these types of cases and vigilant research, policy, and practice that society can more effectively protect young children from exposure to potentially murderous outcomes.

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Purpose – Presents metrics and policy recommendations from the Dallas Domestic Violence Task Force (DDVTF) concerning the systemic response to domestic violence (DV) within this community.

Design/methodology/approach – In June 2017, 47 private citizens, nonprofit, criminal justice, social service and religious organizations, and governmental officials who participated on the task force were invited via email to participate in an electronic Qualtrics survey.

Findings – Both general annual metrics are offered as well as detailed monthly metrics and long-term trends for shelter and advocacy providers, police, the district and city attorney’s offices, and courts. In 2016–2017 alone, roughly 15,000 people were educated on DV, 246 victims were sheltered in emergency beds each night on average, roughly 8,000 victims were turned away due to lack of space, over 15,500 DV-related calls were handled by police, 11,000 county criminal cases were filed, and 7 intimate partner homicides occurred within the city of Dallas. Policy recommendations are offered.

Originality/value – The DDVTF annual report is one of the largest and most comprehensive reports of its kind in the United States, with over 3,000 variables collected across the partners. Now in its third reporting year, this chapter offers an overview of key findings and policy recommendations and highlights the work of this coordinated community response team.

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Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to highlight recent research addressing theories of female offending and the context of female perpetrated homicides. Women have often been omitted in research and theory development, thus gendered interventions and treatments lag behind. Additionally, female perpetrated homicides are rare, consequently research examining the context of the events and the events leading up to the homicide are inadequate.

Design/methodology/approach – The approach is to examine the historical research on female offenders, the context of female violent offenses particularly homicide offenses, and emerging theories of gendered experiences into criminal activities for women.

Findings – Findings indicate that gender matters when explaining theories of female offending and when examining the context of female perpetrated homicides.

Originality/value – Females have different life events from males, and these life events create distinct pathways into criminal offending, including the ultimate offense of homicide. Based on these differences, theory development as well as intervention and prevention strategies must be designed that are gender specific.

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Part II Institutions and Identity


Purpose – To explain the unswerving loyalty given to Charles Manson by his followers from a religious perspective by drawing on Durkheim’s (1912/1976) theory of religion and Hall’s (2003, 2013) theory of religion and violence.

Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative analysis of archived multimedia either quoting, or written by, members of the Manson Family. Specifically, a theoretical thematic analysis is used to draw inferences on how members explained their participation in the 1969 murders.

Findings – The Manson Family display a unified belief system premised on the sacredness ascribed to Helter Skelter, forming a moral community at Spahn Ranch. Manson was conceived as the clan’s God, thereby meeting most of Durkheim’s requirements for a religious formation. A main component of their belief system was the inevitability of Helter Skelter, or the upcoming racial revolution; the ultimate war and end of the world. This belief provides one explanation for the Manson murders; that they were carried out as a religious duty to initiate Helter Skelter.

Originality/value – Despite the continued public fascination with the Manson murders, only a few studies have applied a sociotheoretical framework to explain this event and none have used a religious account from the perspective of those involved. By introducing religion as one plausible framework, this research is not only an extension of Durkheim’s work but also contributes to existing literature on the relationship between religion and violence.

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Purpose – A decade after the heinous act of moral turpitude at Virginia Tech, this chapter examines considerations of deterrence and mitigation for campus violence, and discusses the arming of campus police.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter incorporates campus violence from a phenomenological perspective.

Findings – This chapter highlights the notion that no universal panacea exists toward abating violence among higher education settings. However, various preventive and control strategies may be employed to support the long-term campus safety initiatives of higher education institutions.

Originality/value – This chapter provides a commentary regarding preventive strategies, control strategies, and policy considerations for higher education institutions. It emphasizes the notion that all higher educations are unique, and must craft their own individual policies that satisfy the requirements of their specific situations.

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Purpose – The overall purpose of this chapter is to discuss what is known about serious forms of bias violence, obstacles to studying bias violence, and how alternative theoretical and methodological approaches can advance our understanding of bias violence in the twenty-first century.

Design/methodology/approach – Following a review of the literature, the applicability of identity fusion theory for explaining bias violence is considered and applied to the anti-racial mass shooting at an historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Data come from an innovative open-source project known as the United States Extremist Crime Database.

Findings – Drawing from identity fusion theory, information from open-source data on the Charleston church shooting suggests that the perpetrator was a highly fused individual who perceived African Americans as a threat toward his social identity group and committed an act of extreme behavior (i.e., bias homicide) as a means for stabilizing his self-views.

Originality/value – This chapter builds upon prior studies of bias violence by demonstrating how (1) publicly available open sources (e.g., court documents and media reports) may be systematically compiled and used as reliable data for studying serious forms of bias violence, and (2) the use of social psychological theories, specifically identity fusion theory, can help to explain the role of personal and group identities in discriminatory violence.

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Part III Police and State Power


Purpose – The goal of this chapter is to assess the state of evidence examining and explaining trends and patterns in homicide clearances.

Design/methodology/approach – After reviewing the varying bodies of literature on homicide investigations and clearances, the author assesses the degree of support for the prevailing explanations of why some homicides are more likely to be solved than others. The author also use national data to evaluate several reasons for declining clearances.

Findings – Changes in the nature of homicide and deteriorating police–community relations are likely major contributors to declining clearance rates. The most consistent findings regarding patterns are the greater likelihood of clearance in homicides involving young children, contact weapons, residential locations, and killings not occurring in the course of another crime. Explanations relying on notions of victim devaluing generate the least support. There is considerable support for the legal factors approach and community-level explanations show promise. The findings regarding the role of forensic evidence are mixed. Smaller scale studies are beginning to help identify best practices for homicide investigations.

Originality/value – This chapter assesses several explanations for declining clearance rates and brings together divergent streams of research to summarize the current state of knowledge on homicide clearances, best practices in homicide investigations, and gaps to be filled by further studies.

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Purpose – Police violence involving minority citizens is a significant problem in the United States. Efforts to explain the disparate treatment of minorities have often relied on structural-level racial threat hypotheses. However, research framed by this macro-level approach fails to consider meso-level characteristics of spatially specified places within cities. The place hypothesis maintains that police see disadvantaged minority neighborhoods as especially threatening and, therefore, use more violence in them. Reconceptualizing the racial threat model to include meso-level characteristics of place is essential to better explain police violence.

Design/methodology/approach – The argument is investigated using literature drawn from quantitative analyses of structural predictors of police violence and qualitative/quantitative studies of the police subculture and police behavior within disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Findings – Research on the effects of city-level racial segregation on police violence supports the place hypothesis that the incidence of police violence is higher in segregated minority neighborhoods. City-level segregation is, however, only a proxy for the degree of concentrated minority disadvantage existing at the meso-level. Community-level studies suggest that the police do see disadvantaged places as especially threatening and use more violence in them. Plausibly, meso-level neighborhood characteristics of cities may prove to be better predictors of the incidence of police violence than are structural-level characteristics in cross-city comparisons.

Originality/value – This analysis builds on structural-level racial threat theories by demonstrating that meso-level characteristics of cities are central to explaining disparities in the use of police violence. A multilevel approach to studying police violence using this analytic framework is proposed.

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Purpose – This chapter uses preventive and responsive policing strategies in tandem to develop a multi-level theory that explains the relationship between the police and violence.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter brings together classical scholarship and more recent sociological research to demonstrate that an effective response to violence is critical in upholding the state’s monopoly on violence and that police officers can reduce violence by preventing it and responding to it.

Findings – Theoretical and practical evidence support the balanced use of responsive and preventive policing strategies to reduce violence. Findings from the literature are used to argue that (1) when law enforcement officers do not effectively respond to violence and/or crime prevention strategies are nonexistent in a community, neighborhood crime is increased and (2) when citizens do not perceive law enforcement officers as legitimate and effective agents of authority, they become more likely to engage in violent offending (Tonry, 1995; Tyler, 2006).

Originality/value – Research has supported the effectiveness of “proactive” (Braga, Papachristos, & Hureau, 2014; Weisburd & Telep, 2014) and “reactive” (Nagin, 2013; Paternoster, 2010) policing strategies in reducing violence, but no research has combined strategies of prevention and response to explain the relationship between the police and violence. The theory proposed in this chapter demonstrates the utility of explaining the instrumental and legitimacy functions of the police across various levels and brings under-protection to the forefront of research on policing and violence.

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Purpose – This chapter problematizes the concept of the “American Dream” – important for Messner and Rosenfeld’s Intuitional Anomie Theory (IAT).

Design/methodology/approach – The author uses work from political science, specifically Adcock and Collier in conversation with Gerring to consider if the American Dream concept is “good.” The author continues by contending that the work on the state, its power and reach, can assist with the reconceptualization of IAT and the American Dream concept theoretically and methodologically.

Findings – The author finds that the American Dream concept, while not completely inadequate, significantly departs from Adams’ original definition in The Epic of America while also being associated with mixed findings as it relates to race and the likelihood of violence. The author concludes that through critical work (e.g., Moten’s “The Case for Blackness” and Ahmed’s “Phenomenology of Whiteness”) that in order to better develop this basis of desire in the American Dream concept there is a need to integrate a growing body of work that critically engages with the legacy of racial violence and racialized social conditioning. The author concludes that by studying the ontology/phenomenon of race, understandings of cultural desire may be understood in order to inform IAT.

Originality/value – This chapter provides a framework for evaluating concepts with interdisciplinary conversations with political science. The author’s findings also add to a body of work that, through cross-disciplinary conversations, work to tease out the socio-ecological and historical conditions that influence the interaction of structure and culture that lead to anomie and ultimately deviance.

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Part IV Across the Globe


Purpose – This chapter explains what is known about international homicide trends, highlights gaps in existing literature, and proposes avenues for future research that will expand understanding about international homicide.

Design/methodology/approach – We review extant literature on international homicide trends, and draw on data from the World Health Organization from 1990 to 2015 to identify patterns in contemporary international homicide trends.

Findings – We demonstrate evidence of an international homicide drop across most regions around the world. Nonetheless, the homicide decline is not a global event as several countries – particularly countries with high homicide rates – did not experience reductions in homicide during this period. The key question remains as to what the causes of changes in international homicide rates are and why many countries experience very similar reductions in homicide while a few experienced increasing violence. We propose potential explanations and suggest areas for future research.

Originality/value – This chapter documents an international homicide decline occurring between 1990 and 2015. We also demonstrate that homicide trends are likely influenced by factors beyond local phenomena and domestic policies since homicide rates largely track together for regions throughout the world. Accordingly, the chapter suggests potential avenues for future research that can help better explain this trend.

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Purpose – Cross-national comparisons of crime across the world consistently show that homicide rates are higher in more impoverished countries. However, there is a debate on what aspect of poverty is related to violence. Economics aspects have been conceived as wealth, poverty, and inequality. Furthermore, the impact of economic determinants has never been studied against a second potential determinant, which is the quality of the formal social control mechanisms.

Design/methodology/approach – In this study, we use official data made available by international agencies as well as new and original data from the World Homicide Survey, based on the responses provided by 1,223 respondents located in 145 countries of the world.

Findings – Results show that the two main determinants of the homicide rate are economic inequality (Gini) and the quality of the formal social control mechanisms. However, this second dimension is dependent on the wealth of the nation (gross domestic product) and the prevalence of poverty.

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Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore homicide trends in Trinidad and Tobago, to describe the factors that impact the risk for homicide perpetration and victimization, and to discuss the effectiveness of strategies implemented by law enforcement agencies to prosecute homicide cases.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter employs a detailed review of relevant literature to explore homicide trends and the strategies instituted to investigate and prosecute this criminal offense.

Findings – Our findings suggest that homicide victimization and perpetration is concentrated among young men of African descent, who reside in underprivileged communities with a high population density. Gang violence prompted by a narco-drug economy, coupled with gun violence, accentuates the risk of homicide perpetration and victimization. As homicide rates remained high, law enforcement officials in Trinidad and Tobago were ill equipped to investigate and make arrests in these offenses.

Originality/value – This chapter adds to the literature on homicide in Trinidad and Tobago by (1) showing that geographic and demographic factors structure homicide victimization and (2) exploring how the political economy of drugs in the Caribbean contributes to murder.

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About the Authors

Pages 257-259
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Pages 261-264
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Cover of Homicide and Violent Crime
Publication date
Book series
Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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