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Dr. William Pridemore, criminal justice and criminology professor at Georgia State University presents his findings on homicide causes and rates at UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum on March 11. (Photo/Ricardo Torres)
Dr. William Pridemore, criminal justice and criminology professor at Georgia State University presents his findings on homicide causes and rates at UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum on March 11. (Photo/Ricardo Torres)

Homicide Causes Misread and Rates Exaggerated, According to Distinguished Criminologist’s UNLV Lecture

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For decades, flawed theory, data, method and results have led to an erroneous approach to homicide and violent crimes by world governments and criminologists.

Dr. William Pridemore, professor of criminal justice and criminology at Georgia State University, on March 11 told about 50 people at the UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum to be suspicious in his talk, “Things Are Not What They Seem.”

“Be skeptical of what scholars tell you about data when carrying out cross-national studies on violence, especially homicide,”Pridemore said.

Pridemore said that interpersonal violence varies from different countries and cultures, but noted that information on causes, age ranges of those prone to commit these crimes and even homicide rates are often misconstrued.

Through a presentation, Pridemore explained how criminologists, according to his studies, have misrepresented notable sociologist Emile Durkheim’s theories on triggers to a more violent society. Pridemore said that there has been a common misconception that higher homicide rates are attributed to social inequality. These studies leave out an important component—poverty.

“A positive relationship between poverty and homicide is the most consistent finding in the literature, but yet no cross national studies included poverty in their models,” Pridemore said. He noted that there are over 60 studies with this incorrect correlation.

He said that linking inequality and homicide produces inconclusive results, but that adding poverty as a component allows for a more careful and thorough evaluation of the problem.

“Inequality was significant where no control for poverty was included,” Pridemore said citing his study. When poverty was included, he added, “There was an association between poverty and homicide … the inequality and homicide association disappeared.”

Pridemore said that economic welfare, job security, day care for children, survival benefits and services can help reduce violent crimes and gave examples of countries where this has worked.

“The strength of the association between poverty and homicide rates is weaker in nations that provide various levels of protection to its citizens,” Pridemore said. “Social protection is moderating or buffering the effects of poverty on homicide rates.”

The general public is often tricked into believing inaccurate talking points about crime by the media and politicians, who “don’t use policy very well to try to respond to interpersonal violence.”

“Everyone thinks that they know why crime is high, why it’s getting higher, what we should do with criminals and how we should punish them,” Pridemore said.  “But guess what, crime isn’t high, it isn’t getting higher. Crime is its lowest that’s it’s been at the U.S. for 40, 50 years.”

A study by U.S Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that U.S homicide rates declined by nearly 50 percent from 1992 to 2011, dropping to the lowest level since 1963.

“I’m a skeptical criminologist, so I will be skeptical of what you are presenting here,” a man told Pridemore during a question-and-answer period. He said that he disagreed with Pridemore’s point on age percentage of those prone to commit violent crimes not being a main factor in determining homicide rates.

Students from a Valley High School’s government class were also present and Quintez Gatewood said since data varies, there should be full communication between countries that study crime.

“We should all be on the same playing field,” Gatewood said. “If we have different definitions on stuff that’s important, then we’ll never know really what we want to know.”

Pridemore said that it is difficult analyzing this new data on violent crimes and reaching conclusions that might influence policy. However, he hopes these new findings cure misinformation and inspire “thinking people.”

“I want this to be an allegory for understanding that we can think about crime scientifically,” Pridemore said. ”It’s not just something that we can’t do anything about, [that] we throw our hands in the air [about], that we’re not informed about it. I hope that story came out here.”

The forum was presented by UNLV’s College of Liberal Arts. More information on Dr. William Pridemore can be found at: www.aysps.gsu.edu/cj/faculty/william-alex-pridemore.

To contact Ricardo Torres, email: rickytorresc@gmail.com

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