Some Perspectives on Violent Crime

By Ruth Walker. Ruth Walker is the Monitor's deputy editor. | The Christian Science Monitor, September 1, 1993 | Go to article overview

Some Perspectives on Violent Crime


Ruth Walker. Ruth Walker is the Monitor's deputy editor., The Christian Science Monitor


IT may be simply that we have just been through August, when the newspapers and newscasts seem to be filled by default with reports of crime and violence. But however much news organizations play up these tragedies, they aren't inventing them out of whole cloth.

The murder of the father of basketball superhero Michael Jordan is only one of the most visible of this summer's episodes. In some ways it is one of the most troubling, because it seems to suggest that no one is safe.

What can be done about increasing violence?

Charles Patrick Ewing is a professor of law at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a forensic psychologist who is troubled by a decrease in the age of young people committing capital crimes. Those whose criminal careers might once have started in their late teens are now killing at the ages of 11, 12, or 13. He says young criminals are responding to violence committed against them within the family. Family violence, in turn, he sees as increasing because of a greater social tolerance for it, in part brought on by media reports that suggest that crimes that are still statistical anomalies are nonetheless everyday occurrences. As people become desensitized to violence their own inhibitions against committing it themselves may wear down.

Professor Ewing also sees a "failure to transmit values." When he asks a child or teenager who has killed someone, "What was in your head when you pulled the trigger?" the answer is often, in effect, "Nothing." He asks, "If you don't have the value of life, what other value can you have?"

Randy Martin, professor of criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Pa., also sees crime and violence as connected with values, with a lack of spirituality, as he puts it. "And by spirituality, I'm not thinking of organized religion; I'm thinking of a sense of connectedness to a larger whole.... We need to find more outlets for the spirit - whatever that is." He also sees a need to move to a conflict-resolution model for handling crime. We wage "war on crime," but we need police who make peace, not just arrests. …

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