The paper reports on the fact that the murder rates in the USA are extremely high. It determines the necessity of creating a versatile approach in order to solve this problem. The paper considers the general background of the criminal law system of the USA from the point of view of murders and provides the statistics of how the rates had been lowered due to the measures, implemented by the government. In addition to this, one of the essential concerns of the paper is the way the US authorities and the corresponding bodies address the issues of murders (of different nature) and investigate the cases. The paper contains a profound analysis of the correlation between the American criminal law system and the murder rates that have been compared throughout the paper. The various time frames have been taken into consideration in order to show that the implementation of improvements into the legal system of the USA at the preventative level stimulates the decrease of the murder cases throughout the country. The information, represented in the paper, is based on the most recent investigations and provides a concise insight into the topic and its significance.
Keywords: prevention, crime, murder, federal, local, level.
Murder is known to be one of the oldest types of crimes traditionally existing in each society for centuries. The status of these violations in the general structure of crime has always been a measure of the level of public safety and has been used to determine the degree of public concern. Therefore, at all times the state power sought effective ways of dealing with the murders. Although sometimes it was possible, still a large number of efforts in this area did not lead to success. Thus, even nowadays the prevention of this, perhaps, the most serious crime, is the issue of exceptional importance.
Since the crime in its development is subjected to the general laws of the single principle worldwide, the phenomenon of the murder is also characterized by this trend. However, different standards of living, legal, and political systems cause some differences in the criminological characteristics of the homicides. In addition, the common aspects of the formation of criminogenic determinants (economics and politics) as well as the organizational and legal specifics play a particularly important role and tend to participate in the regulation of responsibility for the murder, being applied as methods of the fight against violent crime and crime registration.
The US has always attracted the attention of the international community as the country with the strongest economy, the most powerful army, the high level of introduction of innovative technologies, and other similar features. At the same time, the United States has one of the highest levels of crime and criminal records, that is why the rating of the most criminogenic cities, represented by such cities as New Orleans and Detroit, constitutes 67 and 46 murders respectively per 100, 000 population (Broyles, 2011). Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to take into consideration the preventative measures that are taken in the United States in order to reduce the number of murders.
Regardless of the fact that the population of this state constitutes about 5% of the world population, the number of people, who were sentenced to imprisonment, is equal to a quarter of this figure in the world scale, excluding 5 million of Americans, who are released from serving the punishment on parole (Broyles, 2011). In the process of implementation of criminological policy, this situation requires an adequate reaction from the US politics, which should involve decisive and sometimes tough action to curb the crime and keep its rates relatively safe for the society. Due to this strict means of fighting the crime, the Crime Prevention state policy system in the United States is required to be the field of expertise of the police.
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The consequences of this policy, together with the expansion of activities of the general social prevention led to a significant reduction in the crime rates, which are now similar to the data, gathered 40 years ago (Fujii, 2007). For example, over the past 10 years, the murder rates in the US had been decreased by one third, including especially cruel murders (36.7%), rapes (18.2%), robberies (40.2%), and thefts (55%) (Broyles, 2011). According to official information of the FBI and the crime index represented by the UCR (that means Uniform Crime Reports), in 2002 – 2011 there was a reduction in the violent crime rates by 15.5% (Broyles, 2011). During the same period, there was almost a 20% decrease in the number of property crimes (Broyles, 2011).
In the United States, murders have been always recorded by the number of victims, and the premeditated murder has been defined as any death, occurring due to the injuries, received in the fight, quarrel, attack, or during the prevention of crime, regardless of the time of death. Meanwhile, the attempt to murder is qualified by the Americans as an aggravated assault.
However, it seems that these differences in the registration of murders in the USA occurred due to the way they were analyzed. However, in the analysis of the dynamics of the murder levels, the identification of the typical trends was not significantly influenced by specific features of registration, which would allow neutralizing the comparable level of the murders. The US does not attempt to register the number of crimes, but there is a record of the number of victims and other acts, treated as murders, instead.
The United States in the second half of the 1980s was a strong developed country with a stable economic situation (Broyles, 2011). The level of recorded murders during that period was also relatively “stable”, however the absolute figures of this type of crime gradually increased. Their growth in the reported period of five years (1986-1990) amounted to 11.3%, while the absolute numbers of murders grew mainly during the last two years (1989-1990) (Broyles, 2011). This is probably due to the steady stream of immigrants, who moved to this country. On the one hand, this process increased the US population, but, on the other hand, the criminalization was raised by the group of the workers, who were not showing the law-abiding behavior.
In general, the United States at that time were not accidentally considered to be the most criminal country in the world. In some years (1986-1988), the murder rates were more than two times higher than the minimum figures, which previously did not exceed the mark of 10,000 murders per year (Broyles, 2011). This was the result of a complex of reasons, ranging from the general atmosphere of social optimism and a change in expectations and ending with the positive effect of a massive attack on the state alcohol.
Due to the peculiarities of the American federalism, there is no single, national criminal justice system in the USA. The country has 53 independent systems, which include 50 federal states, District of Columbia, where there is a capital, and the ‘Free Associated State’ of Puerto Rico (Broyles, 2011). It gave a rise to such typical for the US phenomenon as a legal dualism, meaning that there is the right of the state, which has the legal force in the territory of each state, and the federal right, which becomes effective under certain conditions.
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The specifics of the American criminal law from the perspective of murders’ prevention largely due to the peculiarities of the US legal model in general (Fujii, 2007). The originality of this legal model, which originated in the English common law, consists in its formation and development at the end of the 18th century. The criminal law acquired a legislative basis in the form of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, which became the constitutional principle of building a democratic state and gave priority to the protection of human rights and freedoms.
The sources of the federal criminal system in the United States are the United States Constitution of 1787, the Congress acts, regulations and rules of international criminal laws, and, to a minor extent, the right of the Indian tribes (?ng?r, 2006). The US Constitution does not provide a clear distinction between the competence of federal and state criminal laws and does not directly concern the issue of murders (Fujii, 2007).
Murders are frequently represented as multi-episodic crimes that are spread today. They attract more and more attention in society. The reason for it is the recent increase in the number of murders, which leads to the emergence of some dangerous consequences, such as a large number of victims, including the victims of juvenile delinquency. It is important that the frequency of these events is related to the whole world and the problem of serial crimes is influencing the international community.
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Serial killers are like predators, which often stalk their prey for a long period of time and then attack them unexpectedly, when they are brought into a state of shock. These violent acts, committed with fury, involve numerous injuries such as, for instance, the opened chest and abdominal cavity, everted internal organs, abused genitals, dismembered body, etc. The bloody crimes of this nature are striking due to their eccentricity, cruelty, cynicism, and the number of victims. The cruel nature of such murders produces the impression that these crimes are committed by monsters that do not belong to the human race. Similar emotions are enhanced by the fact that some of the bodies were identified with the marks of cannibalism.
To ensure the successful prevention of sexual serial murders and rapes, it is of prime importance to ensure public law and order in preventing alcohol and drug addiction. Intoxication can be regarded as an internal, personal condition, conducive to the commission of violent action, and murdering one of the victims. Intoxication updates and objectifies a hidden desire and criminal experience. That is why rape and sexual murders are often committed in a state of intoxication. Moreover, in a state of alcoholic or drug intoxication a person loses control and may become the object of violence, often provoking the behavior of the offender.
Permanent intoxication contributes to the development of negative personality traits, antisocial attitudes, and beliefs, sexual disinhibition as well as reduces cultural level, thus, increasing the degradation processes of a human personality. Weak and conflict family relationships, which alcoholics and drug addicts, especially those with other mental anomalies usually have, contribute to their antisocial sexual behavior. It is possible to consider the eradication of drug addiction and alcoholism as a leading preventive measure, because of these social pathologies during the adolescent period identity the formation of gender relations and beliefs, as well as the ways of satisfying sexual needs and choosing the partner for the future cohabitation, etc.
The subsequent correction of these defects is a difficult and often impossible task. The fact of the genetic inheritance of alcoholism is also well-known. A negative example of it is a situation when adults involve teenagers and children in a drinking binge. Sociological studies show that 35% of young offenders have appeared in the medium systematic drunkenness of older relatives, who were leading an immoral life with sexual promiscuity.
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Thus, multi-episodic murders are a serious threat to the life and health of people, because they cause wide social resonance due to the repeated tort (?ng?r, 2006). Besides, habitual offenders, by definition, commit the violent crimes alone, which makes it extremely difficult to search the attacker and to prevent this type of crime, as it has a complicated and highly intimate nature, a quiet hidden character, and, for the most part, is not covered by the consciousness of the object of a criminal act. Such experiences often occur under the active influence of the victim’s mental disorders.
Significant achievements in the field of murder prevention in the US, in addition to the above-mentioned facts, are also connected with broad public participation in the implementation of special programs that are aimed at combating murders (?ng?r, 2006). The widespread use of the various public organizations and agencies in the United States at the state and local levels for the prevention of crime can be explained by the large savings in budget allocations, the effectiveness of the preventive strategy, the reduction in public fear of crime, the reduction of latent crime and victimization of citizens, the increase of public confidence in the criminal justice agencies, and other factors.
It gives grounds for a more detailed consideration of such a measure towards modern criminological policy (Wardle, 2007). The foundations use a programmatic approach to address the problem of crime reduction and control in this country (?ng?r, 2006). Overall, the US government’s murder prevention programs include the identification of areas of social studies, the development and improvement of methods, the process of training of relevant personnel, funding, organization, and implementation of proper preventive measures.
The special state bodies, whose task is to combat the murders in the US, continue to execute their functions mainly through the implementation of appropriate prevention programs, in which the public is one of the main included subjects. These bodies are as follows; Correctional Advisory Board (established in 1950); The Committee on combating youth crime and juvenile of the President of the United States (established in 1961); Interagency Council on the coordination of national programs to combat youth crime (established in 1968); The National Advisory Council for the Prevention of alcohol abuse (established in 1970); The National Commission on the objectives and standards of the functioning of the criminal justice system and develop long-term crime prevention programs (established in 1971); National Center for Safety in schools (established in 1980), and others (Broyles, 2011).
The analysis of various prevention programs, which are undertaken within the work of such organizations, shows that the number of projects in the US has currently reached one hundred. They are implemented on different levels (federal, state, or local) within primary (general social), secondary (prevention) or tertiary (prevention of relapse) stages of crime in general and murders in particular. They are usually applied to resist a specific type of criminality or its preceding phenomenon (?ng?r, 2006).
In addition, the Ministry of Justice’s operating agency that is named as the Office of Justice Programs (generally abbreviated to OJP) is directly related to the activities of NGOs on law enforcement in the United States. This Office has been studying, assessing, and improving
the existing justice system at the federal and local levels through introducing the innovations in the work of the criminal justice system of the State. No wonder that the OJP’s motto is “Innovation. Partnership. Safe neighborhood,” which indicates its efforts to promote the rule of law in the country through increasing the interaction of different, even non-state participants, in the prevention process as well as through developing new forms of murders’ prevention (Broyles, 2011). The OJP cannot be considered as a separate entity, which combats murders in the United States. It is determined by the fact that the agency has a supporting function of collecting the criminal meaningful information in order to improve coordination, and, therefore, strengthen the efficiency of the law enforcement, as well as to support the judicial authorities of the USA.
Thus, the objectives of the OJP include strengthening local-level partnerships between the government and all parties that are interested in countering crime and developing the scientifically reasonable basis of the “wise” approaches for crime prevention on the part of criminal and juvenile justice (Wardle, 2007). According to management, among other things, the OJP also assesses the existing programs, aimed at preventing crime and their specific manifestations, which are based on actual performance (?ng?r, 2006). In particular, the current study programs focus on preventive measures at the state and local levels in the field of criminal justice, juvenile justice, reduction of population, and victimization, protecting the rights of victims of crime. To this end, a transparent system of graduation programs has been developed. It is based on the criterion of actual performance and reviews of the organization’s members so that it can be referred to as an effective and promising strategy.
For example, in April 2011 the subject of a special study by OJP were 256 applications, among which only 28% were found to be effective, while 61% were regarded as promising ones (which requires some changes and improvements, since they have not achieved all their goals), and 11% appeared to be ineffective (Broyles, 2011). Certainly, the specified number of crime prevention programs is currently not exhaustive in the US (?ng?r, 2006). However, the program of the first two groups, given its practical significance and social benefits, is of particular interest for American criminologists and public (Wardle, 2007). It allows us to analyze some existing murder prevention programs, which are precisely the main subjects of the associations’ and individuals’ interest, and whose efficacy was proven in practice under a special study of the American specialists and experts.
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In order to prevent murders, the US authorities and all the bodies, which are responsible for the safety of the society, have to, first and foremost, ensure the presence of free surveillance devices, which do not interfere with extra facilities, buildings, and engineering structures in a particular area (Wardle, 2007). It will facilitate the adequate citizens or police assessment of the situation that exists in the street, the park, or the store and will prevent the disappearance of the perpetrators of a crime. Second, it is important to establish the so-called territorial reinforcement, for example, by planting flowers in some way around the house or making paving slabs in order to emphasize the individuality (privacy) of the property and enhance its owners’ sense of accountability as well as criminals’ sense of risk and danger in case of an attack (?ng?r, 2006). Third, there is a need in establishing the access to the property by clearly defining the limits of the territory of the house, its footpaths, directions to the entrance and exit, etc (?ng?r, 2006). However, it should avoid the effect of “fortress,” created by a large number of rough constipations such as massive bars on the windows, which may indicate fear and lead to the criminals’ attack. Fourth, the next strategy is based on the theory of ‘broken windows’, according to which young people and the public pay attention to the so-called dead zones, wastelands, and abandoned buildings. Places, which, on the contrary, look like objects of entertainment or playgrounds help to prevent the commission of various illegal actions.
The protection of human life in modern society becomes a value of paramount importance. Among all the social and legal benefits, a person’s life is considered as a core value, because in the case of the death of a person all the other rights and freedoms lose their meaning. There is a criminal prohibition of taking away human life, although it does not absolutely guarantee the protection of the life of an individual, it still shows the willingness of the state to protect it. Therefore, the preparedness and perfection of the legal structure are extremely important for the criminal justice system of each state in the USA.
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The criminal law model of the United States, studied in this work, proves the presence of specific features, which are unique to a given legal system. It should be noted that the existing criminal acts against life, the foundations of which were laid in the English common law, are the subjects of the recent reforms in the USA. The change, introduced by them, is largely archaic and does not meet the time requirements of the norm so that they do not correspond to the most modern principles of criminal liability.
The legal systems of the USA can always be changed in a variety of ways, ranging from acquiring the legal experience of another state and ending with the ability to use the results of the skills studies to improve the state laws. Even though a relatively recent interest, shown in the comparative criminal law, was rather academic in nature, today, in an environment of a particular convergence of legal families, knowledge of the foreign criminal law is imperative.
A study of the preventative measures of the murders in the USA gives an opportunity to identify and take account of existing strengths and weaknesses in the formulation of the principles of criminal responsibility, which may help in dealing with criminality and punishability of specific offenses.