THE HFG REVIEW OF RESEARCH (Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1997)
CRIMES OF VIOLENCE
Introduction: Crimes of Violence
James M. Hester, HFG President
While the purview of our concern with problems of violence is world-wide, this issue of the HFG Review presents information and reflections on matters of crime and justice in America. The essays are largely based on research supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.
Program Officer Joel Wallman's essay on "Disarming Youth" reports on Kids, Guns, and Public Policy, a volume resulting from a foundation seminar where experts discussed what can be done to reduce young people's access to guns. This is a vital topic on which practical results can be achieved.
The foundation sponsored Richard Wright and Scott Decker's fascinating project in which they interviewed currently active armed robbers to ascertain how they deal with their victims. The result is a series of most unusual revelations of the realities of criminal behavior.
Karen Colvard, our senior program officer, has written a thoughtful essay emphasizing the disparities between the facts about crime and what the public believes about crime. As she points out, unfortunately most political leaders advocate crime-fighting policies that play to the public's misinformation rather than the facts. Karen discusses several initiatives that may help account for the recent reduction in rates of crime.
John Devine, whom the foundation supported in a study of violence in inner-city New York public schools, challenges conflict resolution courses as a realistic way to affect student behavior. He argues that such a vital responsibility cannot be separated from the basic teacher-student interaction, where misbehavior must be dealt with on a real-time basis if students are to be held to acceptable standards.
Several common themes emerge from these papers. One is that generalizations from gross statistics can be dangerously misleading. Another is that the most important fact about American homicide rates is the role of guns, particularly in the hands of young men in the inner city. Failure to emphasize the importance of these facts in interpreting American crime statistics has led to an enormously costly imprisonment program. It can be argued that focusing on inner city social problems and gun control would be a far more effective use of funds than building more prisons. These essays emphasize the importance of coming face to face with the sources of our problems and dealing with them in human terms rather as mechanical issues of law-and-order.
| back |