'Ferguson Effect': The Theory Behind The Possible Increase in Homicides

‘Ferguson Effect’: The Theory Explaining The Possible Substantial Rise In Recent Homicides In America

The whole nation is deeply saddened and shocked by the recent worst mass shooting that happened at an Orlando gay club, killing 49 people and injuring another 53. Law enforcement officials are investigating the crime.

Media, in the recent reports, suggest that the homicides this year have skyrocketed, and the trend shows no signs of dropping. Particular studies have revealed the number to be substantially higher from some of the biggest cities in America.

This report suggests the trend towards violent America as per the data presented by the FBI, which collects information from over 1,800 law enforcement agencies. This year’s data will be compiled and reported until the middle of 2017.

The report shows a tremendous rise in violence, i.e. up to 1.7 percent and 6.2 percent of the recent homicides. The biggest cities in the United States are usually showing up in the trend.

The questions in everyone’s mind are: “Why is America becoming more violent than ever?” and “Why are violence and homicide approaching historical peak recently?”

Richard Rosenfield, a renowned criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, says, “We are in the midst of a very abrupt, precipitous and large crime increase.”

He is an author whose studies, which examine reasons for the increase in violence, have been released Wednesday by the Justice Department. During the last year, the data collected from the country’s 56 biggest cities state homicides have jumped more than 17 percent.

“That’s a far larger percentage increase than in nearly any other year we’ve seen over the last couple of decades.”

Rosenfield then pointed to some of the possible reasons for the rise in homicides, including the illegal drug trade, frustration, and even ex-convicts getting released from prison.

But the study suggests there is not much connection between the previous phenomena and the recent surge reports.

Another theory suggests what could possibly explain the reason behind the increase: the “Ferguson Effect,” which refers to the August 2014 shooting incident that took place in Ferguson, Missouri.

This theory is one of several that criminologist Richard Rosenfeld presented in the paper. It suggests that after a number of people discussed law enforcement and the killings of young black men in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, many lost confidence in the police.

When residents lose their trust in Police officers, they are likely to share less information with the police. The consequence leads to more violent acts since many people in the neighborhood are tempted to arm themselves and are not likely to visit police stations in case trouble happens.

“When people do not trust the police to act on their behalf and to treat them fairly and with respect, they become more likely to take matters into their own hands,” Rosenfeld writes. “Disputes are settled informally and often violently.”

Even so, Rosenfeld is skeptical of this theory and says, “It’s possible, but we have no evidence,” he said.

He explained that outside a couple of cities — Baltimore, for example, and possibly Chicago — the rate of arrests has not declined, suggesting that police are working just as hard as before.

With the recent evidence of this theory, Rosenfield is confident enough to believe in the reasons he stated and their connection to the increase in crime rate even though he is skeptical in some sense.

In 2014, when one white policeman fired a gun at an unarmed black resident named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the Pew Research Center asked people if they trust police the same way as before. As many as 46 percent responded negatively, saying that they don’t have that same trust.

The Ferguson Effect suggests the possibility of last year’s increase in homicides could be because of the increased public scrutiny of the police.

Accordingly, police are even more hesitant to do their jobs in fear that something might go wrong. In such cases, the community loses their faith in local cops, which urges them to take the matter into their own hands.

Rosenfield says he wants to see the detailed statistic that includes month-by-month arrest records and the number of other phenomena which might be fully relevant in increased crime.

People gathered around to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting
People gathered around to honor the victims of Orlando Shooting [Photo By Scott Olson/Getty Images]
Criminologists suggested all kinds of reasons for the fall of crime statistics since 1990 which includes the removal of lead in gasoline as that helped to remove poisons from the environment, removal of abortion restrictions as a means of producing fewer offspring, reinforcement of drug court which helps the people struggling with drugs and alcohol, cure violence, community policing, and many others.

But even with all the law enforcement around the country to eradicate the crime and violence, recent homicides suggest the data is surging more than ever. Could the Ferguson Effect be the sole reason behind America becoming more violent? The question is yet to be answered.

[Photo By Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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