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Chapter 12 Homicide (Supplement)

Statistical Overview

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that the number of murders committed in the United States in 2000 decreased by 1.1% from the previous year to 15,362 (Rennison 2001a).

  • In 1999, as has been the case for many years, females were more likely than males to be murdered by an intimate partner. Seventy-four percent or 1,218 of the 1,642 persons murdered by an intimate partner were female (Rennison 2001b).

  • A recent analysis of homicide trends in the United States demonstrates that African-Americans continue to be disproportionately represented among homicide victims. In 1998, 23 African-Americans were murdered per 100,000 persons compared to 4 white persons and 3 persons of the other races (Rennison 2001c).

  • In 1999, 1,789 juveniles were victims of homicide in the United States at a rate of 2.6 youths per 100,000 and more than 5 juveniles per day (Fox and Zawitz 2001).

  • The average homicide rate for teenagers (12-17) is 10% higher than the average homicide rate for all persons (Ibid.).

  • More children 0-4 years of age in the United States now die from homicide than from infectious diseases or cancer. There were 593 infanticides reported in the United States in 1999 (Finkelhor and Ormrod 2001).

  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports on an analysis of guns used in homicides between 1976 and 1999 of juveniles, children, and infants:

    • 74% of the homicides of 17-year olds were committed with guns.

    • 54% of the homicides of 12-year olds were committed with guns.

    • 48% of the homicides of 11-year olds were committed with guns.

    • 35% of the homicides of 6-year olds were committed with guns.

    • 27% of the homicides of 5-year olds were committed with guns.

    • 3% of the homicides of 1-year olds and under were committed with guns
        (BJS 2002).

Young Victims of Homicide

More children and youths in the United States are murdered, witness murders, and experience the loss of murdered loved ones and friends than in any other developed nation in the world. According to a 2001 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) report, the U.S. rate of juvenile homicide is five times higher than the rate of the other twenty-five developed nations combined. Homicide is also a major cause of death among young children. Geography and age, in fact, are determining factors in the likelihood of a youth's increased exposure to life-threatening violence. In "Homicides of Children and Youth," Finkelhor and Ormrod (2001) have compiled a statistical report on the homicidal victimization of infants, children, and juveniles in the United States and outline some of the influences and factors that contribute to their heightened vulnerability.

Finkelhor and Ormrod (2001) found that juvenile homicides are an unevenly distributed form of victimization by ethnicity and geography:

  • In 1999, 1,789 (or 2.6 per 100,000) juveniles were victims of homicide in the United States.

  • Minority juveniles are murdered at rates that dwarf the rate of victimization among white juveniles—9.1 African-Americans per 100,000 compared to 1.8 whites and 5.0 Hispanics.

  • The great majority of juvenile African-American, white, and Hispanic homicide victims are male (81%), killed by a male (95%) using a firearm (86%).

  • Juvenile homicides are far more common in large urban areas than small urban areas and rural areas. Eighty-five percent of the counties in America report no juvenile homicides, and the cities of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia account for 25% of the juvenile homicides in the nation.

  • Poverty, gang expansion, crack cocaine, drug market competition, availability of handguns, immaturity, and lack of experience in working out disputes in a nonviolent way are factors credited with the high numbers of juvenile homicides.

Homicides of children under the age of six have aspects to them that are related to the above-mentioned factors, but also involve other contributing factors to which juveniles are less vulnerable. Age of the child and the characteristics of the perpetrator are the dominant influences.

  • There were 593 infanticides reported in the United States in 1999.

  • More girls under age six are homicide victims than are girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen.

  • Family members (71%) commit most of the infant murders, primarily by using "personal weapons" (i.e., hands and feet). Male and female infants were murdered in equal numbers.

  • The cause of death in the majority of child abuse cases involving infants is cerebral trauma.

  • Child fatality researchers believe that a large number (as high as 57%) of infant deaths ruled as accidents actually resulted from maltreatment.. The majority of child maltreatment fatalities involve children under the age of five.

  • Drug use is a factor in approximately one-third of child maltreatment fatalities (Ibid.).

Children in middle childhood, between the ages of six and eleven, are less vulnerable to the kinds of physical abuse that kill infants and are usually too young to play an active role in the dangerous street life of teenagers. Unlike rates of homicide among infants and juveniles, those of children ages six to eleven have remained constant since the 1980s:

  • The overall homicide rate of children in middle childhood was considerably lower (0.6 per 100,000) than juveniles and infants.

  • Perpetrators in the homicides of children this age continued to be family members (61%), and almost half the homicides reported involved firearms (49%). Negligent gun homicides were included in these statistics.

  • Children at this age are vulnerable to sex offenders and a number of sexual homicides factored into the homicide statistics of this age group (Ibid.).

Other types of homicide that affect all three ages groups such as abduction homicides, school homicides, and multivictim family homicides are highly publicized but occur at low rates, and the details of such crimes do not directly impact the above-mentioned characteristics.

Gun Violence and Victims

Victims of gun violence include those who are shot and killed, family survivors of victims of gun violence, those who are shot and injured, and those who witness shootings. Victim service practitioners face a different set of challenges in assisting each group. In March 2000, the Office for Victims of Crime initiated a roundtable discussion by professionals who work with victims of gun violence on the impact of gun violence on victims, families, and communities.

Some of the recommendations from this roundtable discussion include the following:

  • Assistance for gun victims, particularly young African-American men, must include programs designed to teach victims to regain their self-respect and status in the community without resorting to more violence. Quick outreach and support to newly bereaved families can help redirect their grief towards positive efforts to honor the memory of their loved ones. Furthermore, compensation programs should waive time limits for filing applications to avoid penalizing juvenile applicants.

  • Communities victimized by gun massacres should be offered long-term assistance and training so that they can more effectively be involved in a healing process.

  • Limits on medical expenses should be raised for catastrophic injuries incurred by gunshot, and compensation programs should be flexible in defining eligible expenses as the needs of gunshot victims become clear to them.

  • State compensation caps and limits should be raised to permit long-term mental health counseling for gunshot victims and/or their surviving families. States should also consider extending benefits to more secondary victims, including students and co-workers who witness gun violence.

  • Promising practices that support the families of gun homicide victims and victims with serious injuries should be widely publicized; states should be encouraged to fund such programs.

  • More research is necessary to develop services that take into account the impact of gun violence on young children.

  • Protocols should be established in victim services nationwide to ensure that within twenty-four hours of a shooting, victims and families are contacted and support is offered and remains available to assist families with their longer-term needs (Bonderman 2001).

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Chapter 12 Homicide June 2002
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