UMSL research on violent crime attracts attention from St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Janet Lauritsen, Theodore Lentz

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on research from Curators’ Distinguished Professor Janet Lauritsen (left) and doctoral candidate Theordore Lentz on the increased deadliness of violent crime in St. Louis. (Lauritsen photo by August Jennewein, Lentz photo submitted)

News reporters and editorial writers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have both taken an interest in new research from University of Missouri–St. Louis criminologist Janet Lauritsen and doctoral candidate Theodore Lentz on violent crime, which has become more deadly in the City of St. Louis over the past decade.

Lauritsen, a Curators’ Distinguished Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and Lentz co-authored a paper titled “National and Local Trends in Serious Violence, Firearm Victimization, and Homicide,” which was published online in May and due to appear in this month’s issue of the journal Homicide Studies.

Rachel Rice wrote about their work in a story on the front page of Monday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Criminology professor Janet Lauritsen and criminology doctoral candidate Theodore Lentz analyzed years of St. Louis Police Department data and found the number of homicides per robbery or assault has risen by more than 50 percent over the past eight years, from 23 homicides per 1,000 incidents to 36,” the report read.

Lauritsen and Lentz’s research points to the prevalence of gun use as a potential factor – a finding that inspired an editorial headlined “St. Louis study spotlights common sense that more guns yield deadlier crimes” that was published in Tuesday’s paper.

“The researchers are appropriately cautious about drawing conclusions as to why crimes that don’t have to end in killings more often do lately,” the editorial read. “But their own report establishes that guns are used more often in crimes today than in the past. It found that, in 2004, 43 percent of assaults and robberies involved a gun, compared to 60 percent of them by 2016.”

Lauritsen and Lentz do believe there is another factor, outside of gun use, that contributed to the increase in deaths associated with assaults and robberies, but they aren’t able to pinpoint an exact reason.

Their research notes that lethal violence has plateaued in recent years, though guns still have been involved in more than 90 percent of murders in St. Louis.

“It’s appearing to turn around,” Lauritsen told the Post-Dispatch. “Something positive has happened.”

Lauritsen also told the paper she doesn’t want to create fear with the study and stressed that limitations of available data make it difficult to know more about which violent interactions are becoming more deadly.

She is hopeful her research with Lentz will prompt further study of the potential causes leading to the increasing deadliness.

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