Crimes against People
The category of crimes against people includes such crimes as murder, rape, assault, child abuse,
and sexual harassment. Violent crimes reported to the police take place on average once every 20 to
30 seconds in the United States. Thus, the chances of being the victim of some form of violent crime
in this country are disturbingly high.
Murder or homicide
Most Americans fear murder, which happens to about one in every 10,000 inhabitants. Murders
usually occur in the midst of everyday routines and activities. In fact, most murders occur following
some degree of social interaction between victim and murderer. Murders generally happen within the
context of family or other interpersonal relations, and most victims know their murderer. In some
cases, the victim even unintentionally prompts the murderer to attack, by making verbal threats,
striking the first blow, or trying to use a weapon, which is called
majority of killers are not psychotic or mentally deranged. While sensational murders and murderers,
like the “Son of Sam,” receive much publicity, they probably make up a very small percentage of the
Studies indicate several interesting facts about murder and murderers:
Men are much more likely than women to kill and/or be killed.
Murders are most likely to occur in large urban areas.
Murders are more common during the months of December, July, and August, and
are also more likely to occur on weekend nights and early mornings.
Alcohol plays a role in nearly two-thirds of all murders.
The question of the role of capital punishment in deterring murder intrigues sociologists and stirs a
great deal of debate. The social science literature generally indicates that no relationship exists
between capital punishment and homicide rates, although some sociologists may prefer to describe
the literature on the topic as inconclusive.
Rape and personal assault
Laws that protect people from unwanted sexual behaviors are appropriate and necessary, and this is
certainly the case with
—the forced sexual violation of one person (usually female) by another
(usually male). To some, rape is a crime of violence and aggression, not one of sex. To others, it is a
crime of both violence and sex.