Reasons for Criminal Activity

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Crime in America - Its Conditions and Causes


The Federal Bureau of Investigation publishes an annual report called The Uniform Crime Report. This publication divides crime into two categories. These are violent crime and property crime. Four crimes are listed as violent, i.e. murder, rape, assault, and robbery. All four are crimes against the person.

Murder, according to law, is divided into first and second degree killing and also recognizes “negligent homicide.”

The United States suffers a murder rate of 5-6 per 100,000 in the population. Compared to European and other industrialized countries, our murder rate is five times greater than that of Europe and Japan, where murder occurs at only one in 100,000 in the population.

Because the United States has approximately 340 million inhabitants and occupies 3.6 million square miles, our murder rate differs in the several states according to weather, the seasons, and the nature of the population.

The southern states exceed the northern and western states in murder frequency. My published paper “The Influence of the Seasons on the Crime Rate” shows that the southern murder and violence rate is higher than that of the north because the winter months remain sufficiently warm in the winter season to allow outdoor activities in far greater number than is true in the cold north and part of the west. Therefore potential victims of violence as well as its perpetrators are more available in the south than in the north. A second reason for the excess of violence in the south is the presence of a larger Afro-American population in the south than in other parts of the country. My own research shows that Afro-Americans have a murder rate of 18 per 100,000, even as the European-American murder rate is only 3 per 100,000. This discrepancy cannot be related to race in a biological sense. Instead it is the consequence of history and living conditions.

The evidence is that enlisted men in the armed services have a greater murder rate than officers. Poor people of any ethnicity have a greater murder and violence rate than middle class and wealthy people. In fact, with the exception of gender, lower rated populations have higher violence rates than higher income and higher prestige populations. Suicide is far more common among upper and middle classes than among the poor.

Since men, even now after women’s liberation, earn more and are more likely to hold prestigious occupations, the dichotomy regarding men and women does not hold. Men are far more likely to commit murder and other violence than is true of women. The explanation for this phenomenon may be called “relative deprivation.” Relative deprivation relates to the belief of people of any income that they are a failure in comparison to significant others in their life. Consider a family physician who earns $250,000 a year but feels deprived because his doctor brother earns a million each year because he is a cardiac surgeon. Indeed women still earn a lesser income than men, but are far less competitive than men in economic terms than men because women have a primary role as mothers and wives, which is more important to them than the father role of men. Men commit much more suicide than women because men, in American culture, are assessed as winners or losers according to income and occupation. This may gradually change as more and more women enter high occupation professions, but it remains anchored in the working class.

It is also significant that the majority of American murders are achieved by a firearm, since men are more likely to possess a gun than is true of women. Finally, it cannot be dismissed that men are stronger than women, and therefore more capable of assault and murder than is true of women, who are by their nature excluded from violent rape. Nevertheless, women too can be rapists, in that 25 female teachers have been convicted of having had sex with underage boys in their schools. The number of women who have engaged in similar activities is not known.

In our competitive society, which begins with grade school and continues throughout our lives, those who are always on the bottom feel constantly emotionally wounded by always being the loser. Consider the feelings of an African-American who is always working at the minimum wage, has no means of climbing the ladder to success, and feels rejected and despised by those who lord it over him all the years of his life. It is exceedingly difficult to rise from abject poverty to success, a condition which has also affected Jewish holocaust survivors, many of whom have lived in relative poverty ever since arriving here and who recognize the contempt with which they are treated by the Jewish community.

Suicide is of course also a form of murder, as the very word indicates. People who have benefitted from high earnings, prestigious jobs, leading positions, and success, will blame themselves when things go wrong, and therefore are more subject to suicide than proverbial losers who blame “the system” and others and therefore are more ready to commit violence than those who were always in charge.

Men commit far more suicide than women, white people are far more suicidal than colored people, and young men aged 15-30 are leaders in suicide compared to older men. The reason is that younger men have little life experience and view rejection, unemployment, illness, divorce, and other painful events as catastrophes, while older, experienced men as well as those who have “steel in their blood” can tolerate setbacks and do not give up, no matter what happens to them.

The school shooters and others who shoot or otherwise kill people they do not know are also suicides. These young men have decided that their lives are not worth living and that they are willing to be “suicides by cop” rather than be rejected and unappreciated. There are people who would rather be known for negative conduct than not be known at all.  Many of the school shooters were students in the schools they attacked, while others killed colleagues and supervisors at workplaces who had fired them.

The fact is that our achieving society produces many people who feel that they are failures, and therefore want to get even with those who are “big shots.” Even among people who are not dissatisfied with their lives, there are many who resent the achievements of others and who criticize anyone who has written a book or painted a picture or made some money or was seen on television. Indeed, criticism is far easier than achievement, as Alexander Pope wrote so eloquently in his “Essay on Criticism,” which is not an essay but a poem, including the immortal line, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Rape is so heinous a crime that it was once a crime punishable by the death penalty in those states which allow this atrocity to continue. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty, which is also a form of murder, cannot apply to rape.

Assault is almost only a male crime. Much assault is domestic and is conducted by men against women. There are numerous men who have been jailed for beating a woman but then killed their wife or live-in after being released from jail. Men who assault women and children are usually the children of violent fathers. Sociologists have shown that violent delinquency is common among children raised in violent homes. In fact, criminologists have found that if violence at home were eliminated, juvenile and adult street violence would also disappear. It is therefore of the utmost importance that adults do not beat children. Unfortunately, a large number of American adults beat their children and claim that this is a good thing to do.

Robbery is a crime against the person. It is usually conducted outdoors, and promoted by the use of a gun. Robbery is of course also a crime against property, but is seldom successful if it includes bank robbery. Today banks have so many electronic devices to prevent robbery or to identify the robbers that those who seek to steal from a bank can do so by far more hidden means than to risk using a gun.

The FBI also lists burglary, larceny, auto theft, and arson. Burglary is also known as breaking and entering. This requires a certain amount of skill in identifying houses that are not occupied, knowing what valuables to steal and where they may be found, and knowing how to leave in a hurry if someone approaches a house or apartment while a burglary is in  progress.

Larceny is another name for theft. That is the most common American crime.  More money is lost by means of larceny than any crime other that so called “white collar crimes” such as Ponzi schemes. Women commit more larceny than men. Women are more often looking for clothes and jewelry in stores. Here we find women who have the money to buy what they stole. This behavior relates to people who feel deprived and by stealing are giving themselves a gift. Some exceedingly rich women have been apprehended while committing larceny.  That brings us to auto theft, which is conducted by professional thieves who drive the stolen cars to a garage, where all numbers on any part of the car are removed, the license plates changed, and the stolen cars sold to “decent people” who pay the car thieves for the stolen cars.

Arson, the deliberate setting of a fire to a house or business or other building, may be the conduct of some people who want to see fires and enjoy burning down a structure. Some of these people actually work as firemen, while others burn a dead person they have killed or burn a building that has some significance for those who are disliked by the arsonists. An example was the burning of a church in Washington, DC during the riots in several American cities in the summer of 2011. Some arsonists set forest fires by carelessly throwing away a burning cigar or leaving an open flame in a wooded place.

Criminologists have designated some offenses “white collar crimes.” These are crimes usually committed by business owners who cheat others by such methods as Ponzi schemes. Ponzi was an Italian immigrant who devised a lucrative method of gaining money from fools whose greed led them to believe that Ponzi could pay them far more interest on an investment than any bank. The victims of Ponzi’s claims would  be told that Ponzi would pay them far more interest than available anywhere else. As agreed, Ponzi actually did pay the victims more than they could have gotten elsewhere. Ponzi was able to do so because he told the next investor he would pay much more interest than anyone else. He then used the money given him by investor two to pay investor one. He of course kept a good part of the money for himself. Next he used investor three to pay investor two, and so forth. Finally, however, there were not enough new investors or for some other reason investors wanted their principal back and Ponzi could not pay as promised. He landed in jail, as did so many others who have repeated this scheme over the years.

There are of course numerous other kinds of fraud. I have written a book on fraud which can be had at any library.

In sum, we learn here that crime is rampant in the United States not only because the Biden administration refuses to enforce the laws, but also because a large number of voters elect  officials, such as mayors and prosecutors, who fail to protect the American citizens from the marauding criminals who roam our streets.

It may well be that if we taught all schoolchildren that most important commandment in the Torah, “V'ahavta lereiacha kamocha,” we would be able to elevate the American people to peace and a better life. May Shem Yisborach help us to escape the American crime dilemma.

Shalom u'vracha.

  Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).

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