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  Chapter Twelve:

  Capital Punishment
  Offenses of Prisoners
  Juvenile Offenders



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Homicides increased sharply during the first third of the century and then declined to a lower level during the second third. The homicide rate escalated to new peaks during the final third and then declined sharply in the last decade of the century.
The best single indicator of the incidence of violent crime in the nation is the annual homicide rate (murders and non-negligent manslaughters per 100,000 population. Unlike other crimes, which often go unreported, nearly all homicides are known to the police and counted in the statistics. For the same reason, a great deal was known about the perpetrators and victims of homicides. 

Homicide was more common in metropolitan areas than in small cities and rural areas, but the rate varied enormously among cities, states, and regions of the country. In 1997, for example, the homicide rate ranged from 1.4 per 100,000 in South Dakota to 15.7 per 100,000 in Louisiana. Two-thirds of all homicides were committed with firearms, and most of the rest with knives or clubs. 

Homicide rates were heavily influenced by age, race, and gender. The prime age group for both victims and perpetrators was eighteen to twenty-four. Blacks were about eight times more likely than whites to be involved in homicides, both as victims and perpetrators. Males were about four times more likely than females to be homicide victims and ten times more likely to be homicide perpetrators. 

Killer and victim were acquainted in about three out of four homicides. Indeed, the probability of being killed by a close relative or lover was higher than the probability of being killed by a stranger. But strangers did murder strangers in robberies, drug deals, psychopathic episodes, and barroom brawls. 

These characteristics of homicides and their perpetrators and victims remained fairly stable from year to year.

Chapter 12 chart 1

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series H 972; Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1997 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1998), table 3.111; WA 2000, page 905; SA 1977, table 273; SA 1984, table 285; SA 1991, table 292; and SA 1999, table 342. For 1999 figure, see FBI web site, at (accessed September 4, 2000). For differential homicide rates, see Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1997 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1998), section 3.


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