Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 July 2009
homicide is not randomly distributed over persons, places, or time. Some groups of people are more likely than others to be involved in lethal violence as its offenders and victims. There are also fundamental differences within and across geographical areas in their rates of homicide. Like individual offenders, countries, cities, neighborhoods, and other physical environments have criminal “careers” of violence that vacillate over time.
The current chapter summarizes the empirical distribution of homicide across countries, over time, and across various social groupings. Trends in England and the United States are emphasized because of the greater availability of longitudinal data in these countries. After presenting brief histories of homicide in these countries, we use Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) to identify the most prevalent structures of homicide situations in the United States over the last three decades. QCA is used to empirically document change and stability in the structure of homicide situations over time. The observed results are then discussed in terms of their implications for further research and public policy.
Historical Trends in Homicide
Based on previous studies and a reanalysis of existing data, it is possible to describe trends in the prevalence of homicide and its characteristics over time. These historical trends and changes in homicide characteristics are provided below.
Stability and Change in the Prevalence of Homicides
Data limitations and changing definitions of homicide preclude the development of a comprehensive time series for homicide rates across Western history.