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Shootings, murder-suicide raise broader question: Is violence linked to recession?

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Still, criminologists do say that certain kinds of violent crimes have risen during specific economic downturns. The recession in the early 1990s "saw a dramatic increase in workplace violence committed by vengeful ex-workers who decided to come back and get even with their boss and their co-workers through the barrel of an AK-47," Mr. Levin says.

And in the midst of this downturn, one study released Monday in Florida finds a link between domestic violence and economic tragedies like job loss and foreclosures. The Sunshine State saw an almost 40 percent jump in demand for domestic-violence centers, an increase related to the state of the economy, the study says. George Sheldon, secretary of Florida's Department of Children and Families, calls the situation "the worst I've seen in years," according to the Associated Press.

The potential link between murder-suicides and the economy is an area of study for the Violence Policy Center in Washington. "We've been looking at this issue of whether there are more murder-suicides … [and] a pattern is starting to develop that may point in that direction," says Kristen Rand, legislative director at the center. "Between the Texas Tower shootings in the 1960s until the McDonald's massacre in 1984, it was extremely rare to see these types of mass shootings. Now we're seeing them much more often, and they do seem to happen in spurts."

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