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Belzner 1

Violent Crime: The Effects of Age and Alcohol and Drug Use

Matthew Belzner CRIM250W Section 005 Christina Wolfe April 20, 2012

Belzner 2 Abstract Violent Crime: The Effects of Age and Alcohol and Drug Use This study focuses on the relationships between violent crimes committed by inmates in local jails and their age, alcohol use, and drug use. The data used in this study was gathered from the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails (SILJ), conducted by the United States Census Bureau, consisting of 6,982 cross-sectional interviews of inmates across 417 US jails. The primary concern is to determine if younger people, and alcohol and drug users are more likely to commit violent versus nonviolent crimes. A better understanding of these relationships can lead to appropriate policy change as well as better distribution of law enforcement resources.

Keywords: violent crime, drugs, alcohol, age

Belzner 3 Introduction The commission of violent crimes can be attributed to psychological characteristics of the offender, but also to many other factors including the offenders age, and their amount of alcohol and drug use. It is important to study and understand these factors to prevent and reduce the frequency of violent crimes. Drawing from previous research and using data from the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails from 2002 this study will emphasize that violent crime is highly related to the offenders alcohol and drug use, as well as their age. Literature Review There have been many studies conducted on the relationship between alcohol use and violent crime. Zhang, Wieczorek, and Welte (1997) conducted a study to examine the effects of alcohol on four major personality factors (deviant motives, aggression, impulsivity, and problemsolving ability) that can lead to violent offenses. The authors focused on aggravated assault, personality, and alcohol use data derived from the Buffalo Longitudinal Survey of Young Men in which 625 males ages sixteen to nineteen were contacted over a five year period to answer questions about their involvement in delinquency and substance abuse (Zhang et al. 1997:1266). They were able to support their hypothesis that alcohol use before the commission of a violent crime reinforces the offenders four personality factors that can lead up to the crime (Zhang et al. 1997:1267). This is important to this studys hypothesis that respondents who were drinking at the time of their offense were more likely to be convicted of a violent crime. Dawkinss (1997) study also looked at the relationship between alcohol and specific categories of criminal offenses. Adolescents in a juvenile training school in the northeastern United States were given questionnaires to obtain information about the frequency of their substance abuse and the types and frequencies of the offenses they had committed (Dawkins

Belzner 4 1997:396-397). The authors hypothesis that drugs and alcohol are related to different types of offense categories was supported, and more specifically it was found that alcohol is more strongly correlated with violent offenses (Dawkins 1997:398). These findings further support that respondents who were using alcohol during their offense were more likely to have committed a violent crime. Dawkinss (1997) research examined drug use and its relation to crime as well. Drawing from the same data that was used to determine the relationship between alcohol and crime, the study found that marijuana use is correlated more with property offenses or gang violence (Dawkins 1997:398). Marijuana uses relationship to gang violence supports the hypothesis that an increase in drug use is more likely to be associated with a violent crime. Another important study on drug use and crime is French and colleagues (2000) research on the relationship between frequency of drug use and the commission of different types of crimes. Their data was gathered from the 1993 and 1995 National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse consisting of randomly selected people twelve years of age or older from households across the fifty U.S. states (French et al. 2000:97). Different categories of drug users types of committed offenses, either property or predatory (violent) crimes, were focused on to determine support for the authors hypothesis that chronic drug users commit more crimes than non-chronic or non-drug users (French et al. 2000:97). The research concluded that overall, chronic drug users had a higher probability for committing both types of crimes than other types of users, supporting this studys hypothesis that respondents with increased drug use in the year prior to admission to jail are more likely to have committed a violent crime. In addition to alcohol and drug use, age and gender can be very powerful predictors of a persons involvement in violent crime and much research has been done on both topics. Lauritsen, Heimer, and Lynchs (2009) research focused on the narrowing gender gap between

Belzner 5 aggravated assault, robbery, and simple assault found in the FBIs Uniform Crime Report (UCR). The authors hypothesized that the UCRs data is more accurate than the self-report victim survey data found in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the National Crime Survey (NCS) in which the gender gap is shown to be stable (Lauritsen et al. 2009:362). The major findings of this study are that female rates of violent crime are not rising, but are actually somewhat decreasing, lending strength to the current studys control for gender with a focus on age and violent crime. Eisners (2003) study examines age trends in violent crime from the thirteenth century to the end of the twentieth century. Focusing on patterns of homicide gathered from the History of Crime Database (a collection of homicide data from several centuries in Sweden, England and Wales, Switzerland, and Italy), the author concludes that the ages of violent offenders generally range from 26 to 31 years old (Eisner 2003:113). These findings fall closely in line with the hypothesis that respondents 24 and younger are more likely to have been convicted of a violent crime. Hypotheses The first hypothesis of this study is that respondents who were drinking at the time of their offense are more likely than those who were not drinking at the time of their offense to have been convicted of a violent crime. Alcohol and the effects it can have on people can play a large part on an individuals involvement in violent crime. The research conducted by Zhang and colleagues (1997) supports this by finding that the use of alcohol reinforces the personality traits that are most strongly associated with the commission of a violent crime. Dawkinss (1997) study also supports this hypothesis in the conclusion that alcohol use is strongly correlated with violent offenses.

Belzner 6 Hypothesis two is that respondents who increased their amount of drug use in the year prior to admission are more likely than those who did not increase their drug use to have been convicted of a violent crime. Drug use, in a similar fashion to alcohol, can also have an effect on someones involvement in violent crime. According to Dawkinss (1997) research, marijuana use is highly correlated with gang violence. Additional research has shown that chronic drug users, as opposed to non-drug and non-chronic drug users, have a higher probability of committing both property and violent crimes (French et al. 2000:97). Both studies support the hypothesis that increased drug use is related to violent crime. The third and final hypothesis is that, controlling for gender, respondents age 24 and younger are more likely than respondents age 25 and older to have been convicted of a violent crime. In order to control for gender, Lauritsen and colleagues (2009) study is utilized to show that the gender gap in violent crime has remained relatively unchanged. Eisners (2003) study of crime trends throughout several centuries reveals that violent offenders are usually between 26 and 31, which does not support this hypothesis. However, the age range examined in this study is very close to Eisners (2003) findings and can still be used as an important discussion point when it comes to research on the ages of offenders. Methods The Survey of Inmates in Local Jails (SILJ), conducted by the United States Census Bureau, consisted of 6,982 cross-sectional interviews of inmates across 417 US jails. The survey, taking place from January to April of 2002, had a two-stage data collection method. First, using six stratums, a final sample of 417 jails was acquired, ensuring that only jails with large inmate populations were selected. Second, interviewers randomly selected a sample of inmates from each jail making sure that males, females, and juveniles each had the same chance

Belzner 7 of being selected, resulting in 6,982 interviews. Interviewers then personally surveyed the inmates of the jails using a questionnaire. The response rate for both stages was 84.1% due to refusals to participate, transfers, and other types of inmate releases (U.S. Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics 2006). The US Census Bureau conducts the SILJ about every five years in order to gather data on various attributes of inmates. The data gathered can then be used in a wide variety of useful ways. Organization of current jails and construction of new jails can be considered by studying the information. New crime prevention methods can be formulated and the allocation of funding and resources can be better distributed to different law enforcement departments by analyzing the information put together from the inmates questionnaire answers. One category of questions asks about offense data such as whether the crime committed was violent or non-violent, whether alcohol or drugs were involved, and whether or not a weapon was used during commission of the crime. Parole and trial status questions are also included as well as questions on the inmates arrest process such as whether or not they had a lawyer and if bail was set or not. Other question categories range from the inmates childhood experiences and substance abuse history, to their past and present states of mental health (U.S. 2006:13-84). Demographics of the inmates are also an important part of the survey. The races of the inmates were primarily white, at 36.6%, and black, at 39.8%. The remaining inmates identified as either Hispanic, at 17.9%, or other, at 5.7%. The highest percentage of inmates had an education level of some high school or had earned a high school diploma or GED at 32.5% and 41.3% respectively. Inmates with an 8th grade education or less made up 13.0% of the sample and those with some college education made up 10.4%. Lower even still at 2.8% were inmates who had graduated college. Income level of the inmates was coded into six categories: less than

Belzner 8 $300, $300-599, $600-999, $1000-1999, $2000 or more, and none. Percentages for each income level all fall within 23-11% with the highest being 22.6% at the $1000-1999 level and the lowest being 11.9% at the less than $300 level. Roughly half (52.4%) of the inmates were employed on a fulltime basis during the month prior to their arrest while only 2.5% of them were occasionally employed. The current study is concerned with the independent variables of alcohol use, drug use, and age and the influence they have on the commission of violent crime, the dependent variable. Inmates were asked what crime they had committed and based on their answer interviewers coded the crime as either a 1 for violent or a 2 for non-violent (U.S. 2006: 704). Inmates that had committed a violent crime made up 24.5% of the sample. The inmates use of alcohol at the time of their offense is used to study the influence of alcohol on violent crime. The percentage of inmates drinking at the time of their offense was 37.6. This information was gathered with the question, Had you been drinking any alcohol at the time of the offense? along with more detailed questions about the consumption and coded as either a 1 for yes 2 for no (U.S. 2006:550). Drug use, and its effects on violent crime, is looked at in a similar manner. Based on the question, During the year before your admission to jail, did you often use a drug in larger amounts or for longer periods than you meant to? the increased drug use variable was either coded a 1, for increased drug use, or a 2, for no increase (U.S. 2006:602). Inmates that had increased their amount of use in that previous year accounted for 39.4% of the sample. Age, which required recoding, is controlled by the gender variable, a part of the questionnaire where interviewers simply indicated whether the inmate was male (71.5% and coded as 1) or female (28.5 % and coded as 2). The interviewers determined age by asking for the inmates date of births. Their ages were then coded into five categories: 24 or younger, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, and

Belzner 9 55 or older (U.S. 2006:745). For the purpose of the current the study, age has been recoded into only two categories. The first remains the same as 24 or younger, but all others are combined into 25 or older. Findings The relationship between whether or not an inmates offense was violent or not and if they were drinking at the time of the offense is shown in Table 1. The percentage of inmates who had committed a violent offense and were drinking at the time of that offense is 22.7%. This is significantly higher than the percentage (18.4%) of inmates who were not drinking at the time of their violent offense. The relationship between commission of a violent crime and drinking at the time of the crime is significant at the .01 level. Table 2 shows the surprising relationship between violent offenses and whether or not an inmate had increased their drug use in the year prior to their admission to jail for that offense. Inmates who had committed a violent offense and also had increased their drug use in the past year shows a percentage of 19.8%. There is a higher percentage (25.6%) of violent offenders who did not increase their drug use in the past year. The relationship is statistically significant at the .001 level, and runs counter to the current studys second hypothesis. Table 3 shows the relationship between the commission of a violent offense and the age of the inmate, controlling for gender. For both male and female violent offenders, the percentage of those who were 24 years of age or younger were higher than those who were age 25 or older. The percentage of violent male offenders 24 years old or younger is 32.7% versus 25.1% of violent male offenders 25 years of age or older. The same occurrence can be observed with violent female offenders: those 24 years old or younger is 24% and the percentage of those 25 or older is 14.7%. This is reflected in the combined male/female data as well with 30.9% of the

Belzner 10 violent offenders being 24 or younger and 21.7% of them being 25 or older. All three results are statistically significant at the .001 level. Discussion and Conclusion This study centered around three hypotheses examining the relationship between certain aspects of inmates in jail and their involvement in violent crime. The first hypothesis was that respondents who were drinking at the time of their offense are more likely than those were not to have been convicted of a violent crime. Supported at the .01 significance level, it was found that 22.7% of those who committed a violent offense were drinking, while 18.4% of violent offenders were not. Considering the multitude of effects that alcohol can have on people, such as increased aggression and loss of inhibitions, and the situations that people drink in, this does not come as a surprise. Zhang and colleagues (1997) study supports this data by finding that the use of alcohol before commission of a violent crime reinforces personality traits associated with such offenses. Dawkins (1997) study further supports these findings by concluding that alcohol use strongly correlates with violent crimes. The second hypothesis examined in this study was that respondents who increased their drug use in the year prior to their admission to jail are more likely than those who did not to have been convicted of a violent crime. Statistical significance at the .001 level was found, but in the opposite direction. The data shows that 19.8% of violent offenders increased their drug use, but that 25.6% did not, thus not supporting hypothesis two. The previously reviewed research, however, does reveal a relationship between drug use and violent offenses. Dawkins (1997) study of drugs and alcohol found that marijuana use is related to gang violence and property crimes. The study conducted by French and colleagues (2000) also supports this relationship by finding that chronic drug users commit more crimes (both violent and nonviolent) than non-drug

Belzner 11 users. Perhaps the reason the current study failed to find a similar relationship is because it focused on inmates increased drug use, rather than drug use in general or on patterns of specific drug use. The third and last hypothesis of this study was that, controlling for gender, respondents age 24 and younger are more likely than those age 25 and older to have been convicted of a violent crime. For males, females, and both combined, a statistically significant relationship was found at the .001 level. Higher percentages of younger violent offenders were found in each group: 32.7% of male inmates 24 years or younger versus 25.1% of males 25 or older, 24% of females 24 or younger versus 14.7% of those 25 or older, and 30.9% of both male and female violent offenders 24 years or younger versus 21.7% who were 25 or older. Age has been a common variable when studying crime trends. Eisners (2005) historical research finds that younger people (26 to 31 years of age, very close to this studys age range) commit more violent crimes. This may be due to the maturity and the pressures of conformity that one experiences as age increases. Drug and alcohol use, especially among younger people, continues to persist as a problem relating to the commission of violent crimes. Its important to study this relationship in order to allow policing agencies to properly allocate their resources and to more effectively enforce the law. A powerful strength of this study is that the sample of inmates is nationally representative and delves into specific drug and alcohol related situations. However, because the inmates are selected from jails across the nation, area specific violent crime trends cannot be determined and low-level law enforcement departments may not benefit from the data. If this study were to be repeated, it would only benefit from a more detailed analysis of drug use using specific categories and types of drugs to compare to violent crimes. In order to delve deeper into

Belzner 12 violent offenders drug and alcohol use a longitudinal study of inmates could be conducted to better understand patterns and trends associated with this behavior. This study focused on the relationships between violent crimes committed by inmates in local jails and their age, alcohol use, and drug use. Findings in this study, combined with other research, may serve as guidelines not for the creation of stricter laws, rules, and regulations, but to determine which ones require more stringent enforcement. Through continued research and appropriate policy adjustment, violent crimes can be better understood and more effectively reduced and more importantly, prevented.

Belzner 13 References Dawkins, Marvin. 1997. Drug Use and Violent Crime Among Adolescents. Adolescence 32 (126): 395-405. Eisner, Manuel. 2003. Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime. Crime and Justice 30: 83-142. French, Michael T., McGeary, Kerry Anne, Chitwood, Dale D., McCoy, Clyde B., Inciardi, James A., and Duane McBride. 2000. Chronic Drug Use and Crime. Substance Abuse 21 (2): 95-109. Lauritsen, Janet L., Heimer, Karen, and James P. Lynch. 2009. Trends in the Gender Gap in Violent Offending: New Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Survey. Criminology 42 (2): 361-399. U.S. Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. SURVEY OF INMATES IN LOCAL JAILS, 2002: [United States][Computer file]. Conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producer and distributor] 2006. Zhang, Lening, Wieczorek, William F., and John W. Welte. 1997. The Nexus between Alcohol and Violent Crime. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 21 (7): 1264-1271.

Belzner 14 Tables Table 1. Cross Tabulation of Violent and Nonviolent Offenses and Whether Inmates Were Drinking at the Time of the Offense Drinking at Time of Offense Total Yes Violent Offense 349 22.70% Nonviolent Offense 1188 77.30% Total 1537 100% No 471 18.40% 2087 81.60% 2558 100% 820 20.00% 3275 80.00% 4095 100%

Table 2. Cross Tabulation of Violent and Nonviolent Offenses and Whether Inmates Had Increased Their Drug Use in the Year Prior to Admission to Jail Increased Drug Use in Year Prior to Admission Total Yes Violent Offense 437 19.80% Nonviolent Offense 1773 80.20% Total 2210 100% No 866 25.60% 2520 74.40% 3386 100% 1303 23.30% 4293 76.70% 5596 100%

Belzner 15 Table 3. Cross Tabulation of Violent and Nonviolent Offenses and Age of Inmate Controlling for Gender Age Sex of Respondent 24 or younger Violent Offense 572 32.70% Male Nonviolent Offense 1179 67.30% Total Violent Offense 1751 100% 105 24.00% Female Nonviolent Offense 333 76.00% Total Violent Offense 438 100.00% 677 30.90% Total Nonviolent Offense 1512 69.10% Total 2189 100% 25 or older 796 25.10% 2376 74.90% 3172 100% 226 14.70% 1309 85.30% 1535 100.00% 1022 21.70% 3685 78.30% 4707 100% 1368 27.80% 3555 72.20% 4923 100% 331 16.80% 1642 83.20% 1973 100.00% 1699 24.60% 5197 75.40% 6896 100% Total