The Opioid Epidemic and Homicide

By Joel Wallman, Richard Rosenfeld, Randolph Roth
May 2023

The twenty-five-year epidemic of opioid misuse in the United States, which has taken at least 750,000 lives through overdose, has had another lethal toll: violence associated with the street market for these drugs. In this HFG Research and Policy in Brief, Joel Wallman, Richard Rosenfeld, and Randolph Roth present the results of county-level studies that assessed the association between levels of transactions in the illicit market, measured by overdose rates, and homicide. They found that the growth in opioid abuse, arguably a reflection of growth in the illicit market, exerted upward pressure on homicide rates in both the U.S. Black and White populations, but especially in the latter and especially in Appalachia.

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Is Bail Reform Causing an Increase in Crime?

By Don Stemen and David Olson
January 2023

As jurisdictions throughout the U.S. consider reducing or eliminating the use of pretrial detention and cash bail, criminologists Don Stemen and David Olson of Loyola University Chicago examine whether crime has increased in places that have implemented bail reforms since 2017.

In Is Bail Reform Causing an Increase in Crime?, the authors examine eleven jurisdictions that constrained or ended use of these long-established practices and found “no clear or obvious pattern” connecting bail reforms and violent crime. 

They conclude that “reducing pretrial detention and eliminating money considerations from decisions about detention have had minimal negative effects on public safety” and that, considering the harmful effects of pretrial detention on defendants, bail reforms might, in fact, “improve the well-being of communities most impacted by crime.”

International Sanctions against Violent Actors

By Dursun Peksen
November 2022

In International Sanctions against Violent Actors, Dursun Peksen, Professor of Political Science at the University of Memphis, examines the extent to which international sanctions affect political violence committed by state and nonstate actors in sanctioned countries. In this research synthesis, he observes that sanctions are effective only about 30 percent of the time and are likely to create incentives for targeted governments to employ repressive means against their citizenry and rival groups. Sanctions are most likely to succeed when focused on the military capability of one or more parties to a civil war, Peksen concludes. Paired with other forms of intervention, sanctions can amplify the pressure on targeted actors and contribute to peace and stability.

Violence and the Pandemic: Urgent Questions for Research

By Manuel Eisner and Amy Nivette
April 2020

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has taken a terrible toll in lives, illness, and economic devastation. There is another domain in which this disease is having diverse effects—violence—which makes it of special interest to The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, which is dedicated to the production of knowledge in the service of reducing violence. The implications of the pandemic for current and future violence trends are the topic of Violence and the Pandemic: Urgent Questions for Research by Manuel Eisner (University of Cambridge and University of Zurich) and Amy Nivette (Utrecht University). Their thoughtful consideration of the mechanisms that drive spikes in some forms of violence and drops in others suggests timely and compelling opportunities for crucial social-science research that can complement the urgent efforts in the biomedical community to reduce the damage this disease is inflicting on our global community.

Did De-Policing Cause the 2015 Homicide Spike?

By Richard Rosenfeld and Joel Wallman
May 2020

The White Power Movement at War on Democracy

By Kathleen Belew
January 2021

The siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was only the most recent violent incident demonstrating the enduring threat of the white power movement, a transnational cause that took form in the 1980s but has older historical roots. In this HFG Research and Policy in Brief, The White Power Movement at War on Democracy, University of Chicago historian Kathleen Belew relates the origins of the white power movement and connects its most violent manifestations–from the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 to the 2021 siege of the U.S. Capitol—as part of a global, distributed effort to assert and maintain white dominance. In doing so, she exhorts scholars, policymakers, and law enforcement officials to understand and address disparate acts of violence as part of a larger movement.

“Who Got the Camera?” Bringing Race and Police Killings into Focus

By Rod K. Brunson
March 2021

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May of 2020 engendered an outcry over police killings of unarmed Black citizens that spread beyond the Black communities long aware of such incidents and accustomed to protesting against them. In “Who Got the Camera?,” Rod Brunson, the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Professor of Public Life in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, summarizes a body of research, including his own key studies, that is crucial for understanding the problem of police killings of Black Americans. He explains that Black citizens resent aggressive over-policing but also what they perceive to be police ineffectiveness in reducing serious crimes in their communities. He also suggests that minority attitudes toward police could be improved by police consistently employing the principles of procedural justice.

Mass Shootings: Causes and Prevention

By Mark Obbie
April 2021

In the week this research synthesis was released by HFG, CNN reported that 45 mass shootings had occurred in the U.S. in the previous month. While not a new phenomenon, such violent events have again moved near the top of the American issue agenda. In Mass Shootings: Causes and Prevention, criminal justice journalist Mark Obbie presents key findings from leading research on mass shootings. Obbie summarizes a compendium of recent studies suggesting that restricting access to high-capacity weapons, building more effective early-warning systems, and creating a reliable process for data collection could greatly reduce the frequency and toll of this very American type of violence.

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