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DETERMINANTS OF THE DEATH RATE FROM ROBBERY - A DETROIT TIME STUDY

NCJ Number
49176
Journal
Journal of Legal Studies Volume: 1 Issue: 2 Dated: (JUNE 1977) Pages: 317-332
Author(s)
F E ZIMRING
Date Published
1977
Annotation
THIS IS THE REPORT OF A TIME SERIES STUDY OF ROBBERY KILLING IN DETROIT DURING THE 13-YEAR PERIOD BETWEEN 1962 AND 1974.
Abstract
INFORMATION ON ROBBERIES INVOLVING A WEAPON WAS RETRIEVED FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT FOR EACH OF THE 13 YEARS. INDIVIDUAL DESCRIPTIONS OF EACH OF THE POLICE-NOMINATED ROBBERY KILLINGS DURING THE PERIOD WERE EXCERPTED FROM THE CITY POLICE HOMICIDE FILES AND FORWARDED TO THE CENTER FOR STUDIES IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FOR ANALYSIS. FOR EACH KILLING, DATA WERE COLLECTED ON THE WEAPON, THE AGE, RACE, AND SEX OF THE VICTIMS, AND, WHERE AVAILABLE, OF THE OFFENDERS. DURING THE PERIOD UNDER STUDY, THE NUMBER OF ROBBERIES INCREASED FROM 4,200 TO SLIGHTLY OVER 20,000; THE NUMBER OF ROBBERY KILLINGS INCREASED FROM 15 TO 155. THE INCREASE IN THE FREQUENCY OF POLICE-REPORTED ROBBERIES IS CONSIDERED AN INSUFFICIENT EXPLANATION FOR THE INCREASE IN THE DEATH RATE BECAUSE A FOURFOLD INCREASE IN ROBBERY CANNOT COMPLETELY EXPLAIN A NINEFOLD INCREASE IN ROBBERY KILLING, AND WHILE THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN ROBBERY AND ROBBERY KILLING TRENDS IS CLOSE BETWEEN 1962 AND 1970, THE TWO TRENDS DIVERGE DRAMATICALLY AFTER 1971. ALTHOUGH THE INCREASE IN ROBBERY VOLUME ALONE ACCOUNTS FOR LESS THAN HALF OF THE NOTED VARIANCE IN ROBBERY KILLING, GIVEN THAT THE DEATH RATE FOR ROBBERY HAS RISEN, INCREASES IN ROBBERY VOLUME HAVE A POWERFUL EFFECT ON THE NUMBER OF ROBBERY KILLINGS. THE AVAILABILITY AND USE OF WEAPONS CAN AFFECT THE DEATH RATE FROM ROBBERIES IN AT LEAST THREE WAYS: (1) IF DEADLY WEAPONS ARE SELECTED FOR ROBBERIES, AND AN INJURY DOES OCCUR, THE USE OF MORE LETHAL WEAPONS WILL INCREASE THE NUMBER OF FATALITIES; (2) THE AVAILABILITY OF DEADLY WEAPONS ROBBERY RELATIVELY EASY AND THUS INCREASES THE RATE OF ROBBERY AND THE TOTAL DEATH RATE FROM ROBBERY; (3) AND THE AVAILABILITY OF DEADLY WEAPONS DECREASES VICTIM RESISTANCE AND THUS DECREASES THE NUMBER OF RESISTANCE-MOTIVATED ROBBERY KILLINGS. ALTHOUGH THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TOTAL NUMBER OF ROBBERIES AND THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ASSOCIATED DEATHS IS STRONG DURING THE PERIOD STUDIED, DISAGGREGATION BY WEAPON TYPES REVEALS THAT THE MOST CONSISTENT RELATIONSHIP IS BETWEEN GUN ROBBERY RATES AND THE LEVEL OF FIREARM ROBBERY KILLINGS. THIS SUPPORTS SUGGESTIONS THAT WEAPONS CHOICE INFLUENCES THE ROBBERY KILLING RATE. HOWEVER, THE REPORTED DEATH RATE FROM GUN ROBBERY IS HIGHER THAN THAT FOR OTHER WEAPONS, BUT NOT AS SUBSTANTIAL AS OTHER DATA OR THE CORRELATION BETWEEN GUN USE AND THE TOTAL DEATH RATE WOULD SUGGEST. ONE REASON FOR THIS MAY BE THAT GUN ROBBERIES ARE MORE FREQUENTLY REPORTED. OVER THE PERIOD UNDER STUDY, THE CORRELATION BETWEEN THE PERCENT OF TOTAL ROBBERIES INVOLVING A GUN AND ROBBERY DEATH RATES WAS 0.68, SUGGESTING A HIGH CORRELATION BETWEEN TOTAL ROBBERY DEATH RATES AND THE PERCENTAGE OF ALL ROBBERIES ATTRIBUTABLE TO GUNS. WHILE DATA FROM THE EARLY YEARS OF THE STUDY AFFIRMED THE INTERRACIAL STEREOTYPE OF ROBBERY (BLACK OFFENDER/WHITE VICTIM), BY THE LATE 1960'S THE PATTERN HAD REVERSED. BY 1970, THE MAJORITY OF ALL ROBBERY KILLINS VICTIMS ARE BLACK, WITH A CONCENTRATION REACHING A HIGH OF 64 PERCENT IN 1974. TABULAR AND GRAPHIC DATA PROVIDED. REFERENCES ARE FOOTNOTED. (KBL)