Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

January 12, 2011

“Not our girls”

Filed under: Abuse,crime,Racism,Rape — Razib Khan @ 2:55 pm

Long and thorough piece from Eurasian Sensation:

The sort of young men of Muslim backgrounds who commit this sort of crime are certainly not acting out any religious or cultural imperative. Rather, they are cherry-picking whatever cultural influences serve their purposes in the worst way. The rebellious sociopathy of the gang lifestyle; the lure of easy sex and cheap titillation that abounds in Western countries. These things of course are totally at odds with the culture of Pakistan, Lebanon or any other traditional country. Yet by channelling that traditional perspective of female morality, and victimising only those they view as degraded and cheap, it becomes that much easier to justify.

The only thing I would say is that the author underestimates the widespread and pervasive justification of the exploitation and dehumanization of the Other baked-into-the-cake of most human societies. Both Muslims and Christians traditionally enjoined bans upon the enslavement of co-religionists, but not of unbelievers. Terms like “sociopathy” can be slippery. As I have noted before, soldiers are not murderers in the eyes of most cultures, because they kill the Other. Similarly, sexual exploitation of dehumanized groups may not even be sociopathic, because the reference for sociopathy is based on in group morality.

January 8, 2011

More than “just one nation”

Filed under: crime,Pathology,Sex,Society — Razib Khan @ 11:24 am

Jack Straw: Some white girls are ‘easy meat’ for abuse:

But he said: “I certainly don’t think it’s just a Pakistani thing. My staff would say there is an over-representation of people from ethnic minority groups among perpetrators – Afghans, people from Arabic nations, Pakistanis. But it’s not just one nation.”

July 8, 2010

To catch a predator: familial DNA

Filed under: crime,Culture,DNA,DNA fingerprinting — Razib Khan @ 9:51 pm

I already blogged this general issue, but the ‘grim sleeper’ murderer was caught because of a match of old samples with those of us his son. If I had to bet money I think this sort of result (California and Colorado are the two American states which have a system in place to allow for this) is going to allow for a push toward more widespread usage of the technique. It may be that we need to stop talking about privacy as if we can put off the inevitable future, and start talking about accuracy and precision with the data that is going to be easily available to authorities. By the way, I found this objection somewhat strange:

“I can imagine lots of African-American families would think it is not fair to put a disproportionate number of black families under permanent genetic surveillance,” said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University who has written about this issue.

A disproportionate number of black families have relatives incarcerated. The American public does not seem particular worried about that. As I noted before, criminal behavior is not randomly distributed across families. Rather, there are distinct clusters, so familial genetic data is going to be more efficacious than you would expect if the commission of crime consisted of a sequence of independent events.

I have to add that worries about this technology strike me as a bit rich, in light of the fact that methods which are proven to be highly subjective and often inaccurate, such as fingerprinting and eyewitness identification, are accepted in the criminal justice system. I worry about what the state could do with DNA data if the state became malevolent, but despite its flaws it seems to me far preferable as a means of assessing evidence than some of the “tried & true” techniques. So let’s keep some perspective.

December 21, 2009

Crime way down. Who exactly knows stuff?

Filed under: crime,data — Razib @ 3:19 pm

Despite recession, crime keeps falling:

In times of recession, property crimes, in particular, are expected to rise.

They haven’t.

Overall, property crimes fell by 6.1 percent, and violent crimes by 4.4 percent, according to the six-month data collected by the FBI. Crime rates haven’t been this low since the 1960’s, and are nowhere near the peak reached in the early 1990’s.

Who expected crime to increase? Did you? I did. But I didn’t know anything about crime statistics over time so I was working off naive intuition. Did social scientists expect this? I recall a lot of worry in the media about a year ago that the crime drop which started in the 1990s would be reversed, and I shared the worry. Here’s Matt Yglesias worrying last January:

I think this is worth worrying about. One thing we know about crime is that when wages and employment levels for low-skill workers are high, crime goes down. Another is that mass incarceration works – increase the number of beds in prison and the number of sentence-years handed out and the crime rate drops. But the first of these is the reverse of what happens in a recession, and the second we’ve already pushed well past the limit of cost-effectiveness (see here) and it’s inconceivable to me that you could actually push this far enough to compensate for the declining economy in the context of declining state budgets.

It’s easy to find national uniform crime reports data back to 1960, and unemployment rates. Quick correlations between 1960-2008 are:

Violent Crime Aggregated 0.37
Murder 0.52
Rape 0.37
Robbery 0.53
Assault 0.24

Property Crime Aggregated 0.53

One seems to see a modest expectation for a rise in crime then over this time period. But poking around the ICPSR I came across Eric Monkkonen’s data sets on homicide in New York City going back to the 19th century. Below are homicides per capita by year between 1900 and 2000. The second chart is log-transformed.


It seems that there’s another “Depression Paradox” here. The economic distress of the Great Depression seems to have been associated with less crime, while the economic exuberance of the 1920s led to more crime. So if I constrained the time series from 1920-1940 the correlations might be quite different.

All things equal the recent past is a better guide to the near future than the less recent past. But it’s important to remember that history does sometimes work in cycles, and the deeper past can occasionally give us insights which the recent past can not. One could construct a tentative model whereby basal crime rates reflect cultural norms, and once norms and crime hit a particular “equilibrium” it may take a bit of a “shock” for it to shift out of the stable state.

December 1, 2009

There is no society, just homicidal individuals

Filed under: crime — Razib @ 10:48 am

There’s a new book out, American Homicide, which has some interesting arguments:

He concluded that people’s views about the legitimacy of government and how much they identify with their fellow citizens play a major role in how often they kill each other — much more so than the usual theories revolving around guns, poverty, drugs, race, or a permissive justice system.

“The predisposition to murder is rooted in feelings and beliefs people have toward government and their fellow citizens,” said Randolph Roth, author of the book and professor of history at Ohio State.

That includes theories held dear by both conservatives and liberals. If you look at the evidence over time, poverty and unemployment don’t lead to higher murder rates, as many liberals argue, he said. But locking up criminals, using the death penalty, and adding more police don’t hold the murder rate down either, as conservatives claim.

In his analysis, Roth found four factors that relate to the homicide rate in parts of the United States and western Europe throughout the past four centuries: the belief that one’s government is stable and its justice and legal systems are unbiased and effective; a feeling of trust in government officials and a belief in their legitimacy; a sense of patriotism and solidarity with fellow citizens; and a belief that one’s position is society is satisfactory and that one can command respect without resorting to violence.

When those feelings and beliefs are strong, homicide rates are generally low, regardless of the time or place, Roth said. But when people are unsure about their government leaders, don’t feel connected to the rest of society, and feel they don’t have opportunity to command respect in the community, homicide rates go up.

The main issue I have with the explanations for crime variance out there is that the 1960s spike and the 1990s abatement were synchronous internationally. So I’m skeptical of policy changes being the ultimate cause of these cycles.

Powered by WordPress