SOC 2760 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Social Stratification, Dump Job, Logistic Regression

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March 22nd, 2016. SOC2760 Unit 10-Response to Homicide pt. 1
(1) Reading #1: “Explaining the Changing Nature of Homicide Clearance in Canada” By
author Tanya Trussler
oCanada has experienced a declining homicide clearance rate over the past several
decades (Regoeczi, Kennedy, & Silverman, 2000; Silverman & Kennedy, 1997),
falling from a high of almost 95% in the 1960s to as low as 70% in certain regions
of the country
oResearch could therefore benefit from concentrating on Canadian clearance rates
(see Pare´ et al., 2007), and although researchers such as Silverman and Kennedy
(1997) have proposed theories purporting to explain these regional differences in
clearance rates, there is very little empirical research that tests these ideas
oUnderstanding the changing nature of homicide clearance is important for several
reasons: (a) an increase in uncleared cases could reflect greater risk of
interpersonal violence (Riedel & Rinehart, 1996), particularly with reference to
serial cases; (b) the idea of offenders at large can lead to public unrest and
uncertainty as well as draw attention to a state’s inability to accurately manage
homicide offenders (Elias, 1978/1939; Riedel & Rinehart, 1996); (c) clearance is
often assumed to be a measure of police effectiveness (Cordner, 1989; Pare´ et al.,
2007; Puckett & Lundman, 2003), thus any decrease may result in generalized
distrust of the police force (Riedel & Jarvis, 1998); (d) suffering experienced by
families of homicide victims appears to be intensified when the offender is not
known (Riedel & Rinehart, 1996); (e) clearance represents the certainty aspect of
the deterrence trifecta—its absence could, from this perspective, lead to an
increase in crime (Pare´ et al., 2007); (f) decreasing clearance rates could indicate
an alteration in the character of homicide itself (Regoeczi et al., 2000; Riedel &
Jarvis, 1998); and finally, (g) examining clearance may determine whether the
application of law is unequally distributed among a society’s citizens
oUsing the Canadian Homicide Survey, logistic regression is used to compare
cleared and uncleared homicide cases over a 16-year period. First, it looks at the
effect of temporal and geographical variation on homicide clearance to illustrate
the significance of both the declining rate and the regional differences. It then
examines victim characteristics and their effect on clearance outcomes to
determine whether the use of law is unevenly distributed among subgroups of
victims. Finally, the analysis looks at the effect of offense characteristics on
clearance with specific attention paid to the effects of gang- and drug-related
cases, as well as weapon usage.
Homicide Clearance
othis decline appears to have experienced a punctuated downturn in the early
1990s. These temporal and geographical variations are quite remarkable,
especially in light of the fact that the temporal decline is not matched by an
increase in the homicide rate; rather, we see the opposite. Evidence suggests that
there is regional disparity in homicide clearance in Canada
oLowest rates in Quebec and British Columbia (potentially because of gang
activity and variations in weapon use)
oHigh levels of organized crime in Quebec
oThe effect of victim characteristics on clearance outcomes is a contested research
question. The two principal competing perspectives are these: Some research
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March 22nd, 2016. SOC2760 Unit 10-Response to Homicide pt. 1
suggests that police use their discretion in clearing homicides based on the social
characteristics of the victims
oOther researchers argue that, owing to the serious nature of this crime, police
expend equal efforts to solve all such cases, regardless of their possibly negative
evaluation of an undeserving victim
oBlack’s (1976) theory of law, derived from the conflict approach to crime and
justice (see Turk, 1969), maintains that law is unevenly distributed in society.
Law can be quantified by its use; therefore, in criminal law, an arrest is ‘‘more
law’’ than no arrest, a charge is ‘‘more law’’ than no charge, and so on. The use
of law demonstrates which victims’ lives are valued, and Black argues that police
prioritize those homicide cases where the victim enjoys higher social status,
maintaining that a society’s stratification is directly related to the amount and kind
of legal application Black’s perspective argues that laws correspond directly to
stratification, morphology, culture, organization, and social control Ultimately,
these tenets correspond to structural position, economic position, educational
level, community membership, and historical contact with mechanisms of formal
social control, respectively
oStratification is defined as the vertical distance between members of a society
(Black, 1976) wherein certain individual characteristics can elevate importance.
The quantity of social stratification is an important aspect because ‘‘law varies
directly with stratification’’
oSome victims are socially devalued, and these individuals will be ignored by the
police, thereby decreasing clearance probabilities. In Canada, stratification would
suggest less law for victims who are female, younger, and aboriginal,3 because
from a conflict point of view, their position in the society’s hierarchy is lower.
oThe relationship between victim and offender, population density, certain age–
gender–race victim factors unrelated to police discretionary measure, location of
the body, weapon used, and evidence of gang or drug involvement are all factors
that could influence the probability of clearance. These event characteristics
potentially have a direct or indirect effect on the ability of police to solve a
homicide case. If any of these factors do consistently affect clearance outcomes,
they may also be able to explain both the temporal and the geographical variations
in Canadian homicide clearance rates
oThe victim–offender relationship may be most evident in the rural–urban
clearance gap. Homicides tend to have a higher clearance rate in rural areas
because the victim and offender are more likely to be known to each other
oPopulation density affects homicide clearance rates because urbanites’ routine
activities more often bring them into contact with people unknown to them
oOverall, an urban lifestyle increases the likelihood that no relationship will link
the victim and the perpetrator in a homicide case; thus, population density affects
the certainty of apprehension owing to the victim–offender relationship, or lack
thereof cases with victims under the age of 10 are the ones most likely to be
solved as children’s routine activities rarely take them far from people they know;
the perpetrator is therefore often related to the victim, making it easier to solve the
case
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