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Concept: Crime


A geographically-resolved, multi-level Bayesian model is used to analyze the data presented in the U.S. Police-Shooting Database (USPSD) in order to investigate the extent of racial bias in the shooting of American civilians by police officers in recent years. In contrast to previous work that relied on the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Reports that were constructed from self-reported cases of police-involved homicide, this data set is less likely to be biased by police reporting practices. County-specific relative risk outcomes of being shot by police are estimated as a function of the interaction of: 1) whether suspects/civilians were armed or unarmed, and 2) the race/ethnicity of the suspects/civilians. The results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average. Furthermore, the results of multi-level modeling show that there exists significant heterogeneity across counties in the extent of racial bias in police shootings, with some counties showing relative risk ratios of 20 to 1 or more. Finally, analysis of police shooting data as a function of county-level predictors suggests that racial bias in police shootings is most likely to emerge in police departments in larger metropolitan counties with low median incomes and a sizable portion of black residents, especially when there is high financial inequality in that county. There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.

Concepts: Scientific method, United States, Relative risk, Crime, White American, Police, Bayes factor, Constable


Bicycle theft is a serious problem in many countries, and there is a lack of evidence concerning effective prevention strategies. Displaying images of ‘watching eyes’ has been shown to make people behave in more socially desirable ways in a number of settings, but it is not yet clear if this effect can be exploited for purposes of crime prevention. We report the results of a simple intervention on a university campus where signs featuring watching eyes and a related verbal message were displayed above bicycle racks.

Concepts: University, Crime, Campus, Theft, Robbery


Many populations have been exposed to environmental lead from paint, petrol, and mining and smelting operations. Lead is toxic to humans and there is emerging evidence linking childhood exposure with later life antisocial behaviors, including delinquency and crime. This study tested the hypothesis that childhood lead exposure in select Australian populations is related to subsequent aggressive criminal behaviors.

Concepts: Biology, Environment, Natural environment, Crime, Lead, Antisocial personality disorder, Juvenile delinquency


Recent studies have shown that while psychopathy and non-psychopathic antisociality overlap, they differ in the extent to which cognitive impairments are present. Specifically, psychopathy has been related to abnormal allocation of attention, a function that is traditionally believed to be indexed by event-related potentials (ERPs) of the P3-family. Previous research examining psychophysiological correlates of attention in psychopathic individuals has mainly focused on the parietally distributed P3b component to rare targets. In contrast, very little is known about the frontocentral P3a to infrequent novel events in psychopathy. Thus, findings on the P3 components in psychopathy are inconclusive, while results in non-psychopathic antisocial populations are clearer and point toward an inverse relationship between antisociality and P3 amplitudes. The present study adds to extant literature on the P3a and P3b in psychopathy by investigating component amplitudes in psychopathic offenders (N = 20), matched non-psychopathic offenders (N = 23) and healthy controls (N = 16). Also, it was assessed how well each offender group was able to differentially process rare novel and target events. The offender groups showed general amplitude reductions compared to healthy controls, but did not differ mutually on overall P3a/P3b amplitudes. However, the psychopathic group still exhibited normal neurophysiological differentiation when allocating attention to rare novel and target events, unlike the non-psychopathic sample. The results highlight differences between psychopathic and non-psychopathic offenders regarding the integrity of the neurocognitive processes driving attentional allocation, as well as the usefulness of alternative psychophysiological measures in differentiating psychopathy from general antisociality.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Crime, Differential equation, Antisocial personality disorder, Conduct disorder, Psychopathy, Antisocial


Although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are widely prescribed, associations with violence are uncertain.

Concepts: Serotonin, Crime, Violent crime, Violence, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Tricyclic antidepressant, Reuptake inhibitor


Background Little is known about the relative extent of crime against people with severe mental illness (SMI). Aims To assess the prevalence and impact of crime among people with SMI compared with the general population. Method A total of 361 psychiatric patients were interviewed using the national crime survey questionnaire, and findings compared with those from 3138 general population controls participating in the contemporaneous national crime survey. Results Past-year crime was experienced by 40% of patients v. 14% of controls (adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 2.8, 95% CI 2.0-3.8); and violent assaults by 19% of patients v. 3% of controls (adjusted OR = 5.3, 95% CI 3.1-8.8). Women with SMI had four-, ten- and four-fold increases in the odds of experiencing domestic, community and sexual violence, respectively. Victims with SMI were more likely to report psychosocial morbidity following violence than victims from the general population. Conclusions People with SMI are at greatly increased risk of crime and associated morbidity. Violence prevention policies should be particularly focused on people with SMI.

Concepts: Domestic violence, Odds ratio, Crime, Violent crime, Violence, Psychiatry, Mental illness, Violence against women


The rate of erroneous conviction of innocent criminal defendants is often described as not merely unknown but unknowable. There is no systematic method to determine the accuracy of a criminal conviction; if there were, these errors would not occur in the first place. As a result, very few false convictions are ever discovered, and those that are discovered are not representative of the group as a whole. In the United States, however, a high proportion of false convictions that do come to light and produce exonerations are concentrated among the tiny minority of cases in which defendants are sentenced to death. This makes it possible to use data on death row exonerations to estimate the overall rate of false conviction among death sentences. The high rate of exoneration among death-sentenced defendants appears to be driven by the threat of execution, but most death-sentenced defendants are removed from death row and resentenced to life imprisonment, after which the likelihood of exoneration drops sharply. We use survival analysis to model this effect, and estimate that if all death-sentenced defendants remained under sentence of death indefinitely, at least 4.1% would be exonerated. We conclude that this is a conservative estimate of the proportion of false conviction among death sentences in the United States.

Concepts: United States, Crime, Conviction, Criminal law, Prison, Capital punishment, Death row, Miscarriage of justice


Background Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder that has been associated with criminal behavior in some studies. Pharmacologic treatment is available for ADHD and may reduce the risk of criminality. Methods Using Swedish national registers, we gathered information on 25,656 patients with a diagnosis of ADHD, their pharmacologic treatment, and subsequent criminal convictions in Sweden from 2006 through 2009. We used stratified Cox regression analyses to compare the rate of criminality while the patients were receiving ADHD medication, as compared with the rate for the same patients while not receiving medication. Results As compared with nonmedication periods, among patients receiving ADHD medication, there was a significant reduction of 32% in the criminality rate for men (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.68; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.63 to 0.73) and 41% for women (hazard ratio, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.50 to 0.70). The rate reduction remained between 17% and 46% in sensitivity analyses among men, with factors that included different types of drugs (e.g., stimulant vs. nonstimulant) and outcomes (e.g., type of crime). Conclusions Among patients with ADHD, rates of criminality were lower during periods when they were receiving ADHD medication. These findings raise the possibility that the use of medication reduces the risk of criminality among patients with ADHD. (Funded by the Swedish Research Council and others.).

Concepts: Attention, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Crime, Conviction, Criminal law, Criminology, Stimulant, Crime statistics


To compare the change in illicit opioid users' risk of fatal drug-related poisoning (DRP) associated with opioid agonist pharmacotherapy (OAP) and psychological support, and investigate the modifying effect of patient characteristics, criminal justice system (CJS) referral, and treatment completion.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Law, Crime, Criminal law, Criminal justice, Punishment, Police, Corrections


Objectives. We explored differences in criminal convictions between holders and nonholders of a concealed handgun license (CHL) in Texas. Methods. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) provides annual data on criminal convictions of holders and nonholders of CHLs. We used 2001 to 2009 DPS data to investigate the differences in the distribution of convictions for these 2 groups across 9 types of criminal offenses. We calculated z scores for the differences in the types of crimes for which CHL holders and nonholders were convicted. Results. CHL holders were much less likely than nonlicensees to be convicted of crimes. Most nonholder convictions involved higher-prevalence crimes (burglary, robbery, or simple assault). CHL holders' convictions were more likely to involve lower-prevalence crimes, such as sexual offenses, gun offenses, or offenses involving a death. Conclusions. Our results imply that expanding the settings in which concealed carry is permitted may increase the risk of specific types of crimes, some quite serious in those settings. These increased risks may be relatively small. Nonetheless, policymakers should consider these risks when contemplating reducing the scope of gun-free zones. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print November 15, 2012: e1-e6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300807).

Concepts: Crime, Conviction, Criminal law, Firearm, Concealed carry in the United States, Crimes, Assault, Theft