June 25, 2021

Corrections Corner / Deacon Marc Kellams

Study reveals some eye-opening statistics about crime

Deacon Marc KellamsEveryone seems to have an opinion about crime in the United States. An analysis of data from the federal government and other sources by the Pew Research Center, Gramlich, J., (November 2020,) “What the data says (and doesn’t say) about crime in the United States,” reveals some of what you might expect and maybe some surprises.

Property crime is far more prevalent than violent crime. The FBI reported in 2019 that per every 100,000 citizens, there were 2,110 property crimes to every 379 violent crimes. The most common property crime is theft, followed by burglary and auto theft. Violent crimes start with aggravated assault, followed by robbery, rape and murder. Crime rates vary greatly by state.

Although media coverage would lead us to believe that crime is at an all-time high, in fact, crimes rates have plunged since the 1990’s—property crimes by 55%, violent crimes by 49%.

Surprisingly, only 41% of violent crimes and 33% of property crimes were reported to the authorities for varying reasons, including, fear of reprisal, the desire not to get the offender in trouble, a general sense that police couldn’t do anything anyway, or the feeling that the crime might not be important enough to report. Moreover, most of the crimes that are reported are not solved. Only 45.5% of violent crimes and a mere 17.2% of property crimes are.

The root causes for the commission of crime are many. However, one of the leading causes is alcohol and drug abuse. Not only does addiction affect a person’s thinking and reasoning skills, impairing judgment and reducing inhibitions—giving a person greater courage to commit crimes—but it provides the motivation of financial reward to feed a habit.

A genetic link to anti-social personality disorders affecting the commission of crimes has been established. Research on brain activity has shown that the release of neurochemicals (substances the brain releases to trigger body activity) is linked to an increase in aggression. Hormones also have an influence. Testosterone in relatively high levels have been found in inmates as compared to the U.S. adult male population in general.

Many other factors affect those who commit crimes, including low educational levels and literacy skills and peer influence. Those who were neglected or abused as children commit crimes at a higher level.

The quality of early life relationships has a dramatic impact on children and affects their criminogenic behaviors later in life. Supportive and loving parents who provide basic needs and instill in their children a strong sense of morality and socially acceptable behavior have an enormously positive impact. Children who grow up with abuse and anti-social behavior as the norm enter what is described as a “cycle of violence,” which is often repeated in subsequent generations.

Unfortunately, the general public and many legislative bodies continue to consider crime as a willful act that punishment will deter. More prisons and harsher sentences have outweighed rehabilitation and treatment to society’s disadvantage. That has begun to change. Thank God for that.

(Deacon Marc Kellams, is the coordinator of Corrections Ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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