Reviews | Why are so many Americans killing each other?


Balko thinks this may help explain why murders – which tend to be fueled by domestic violence, gang strife and drug trafficking – have increased while other crimes more dependent on public interaction have declined. “Officials from cities that have seen some of the biggest increases in murders in 2020 and 2021 – including Albuquerque, Indianapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles and others — all said much of the surge could be attributed to drug and gang-related killings,” he said. writing. “Thus, the events of 2020 have produced conditions that have both encouraged turf wars and gang rivalries, and at the same time undermined the greatest deterrent to public violence – the presence of witnesses, that they are policemen or passers-by.”

General anomie. Another theory on the rise in murder holds that the pandemic has accelerated (but not necessarily initiated) a dismantling of the social contract. Murder is on the rise, but also other less extreme manifestations of antisocial behaviorsuch as reckless driving, aggressive airline passengers and disruptive behavior in schools.

Besides the pandemic, the proposed causes for anomie are legion, including declining church and union membership, the rise of social media, and widening socio-economic inequalities in a diminished welfare state. Whatever the reason, Times columnist David Brooks concludes that “over the past few years, and across a wide range of different behaviors, Americans have acted less prosocially and relationally and more antisocially and self-destructively. “.

If pandemic-related factors are to blame, the problem may partially resolve itself as the pandemic subsides and employment levels increase, Anthony Barr and Kristen Broady of the Brookings Institution write. Likewise, while the decline of ‘sentinels’ in the public space has been a major contributor to the surge in killings, ‘we should see the numbers drop as the country returns to normal’, Balko predicted. “And indeed, the surge in homicides appears to be slowing, if not reversing in some cities that have opened up, like New York and Boston.”

But if changes or shortcomings in policing are to blame, the solutions are less obvious. One idea, which President Biden himself has embraced, is to invest more money in policing and hire more officers. Although the relationship between police numbers and crime is still debated, there is a fairly solid body of research that shows a salutary effect.

  • A recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, for example, valued that each additional police officer reduces approximately 0.1 homicides. (Research, however, noted that the reduction was much less pronounced in cities with large black populations.)

  • Another one widely cited study found that every dollar spent on additional policing generates about $1.63 in social benefits, mostly through fewer murders. (When performing cost-benefit analyzes of public safety investments, many federal and state agencies put the average lifespan at around $7 million.)

“I’m as much of a reformer as anyone, but the short-term fixes around high violence are mostly punitive,” University of Chicago researcher John Roman told Lopez. “There’s no getting around it.”

[“The case for hiring more police officers”]

But many disagree with a police-only approach. In a recent study of criminal justice experts, about two-thirds said that increasing police budgets would improve public safety. But 85% said – and with greater confidence – that increased spending on housing, health and education would also do the same.


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