The Advent of Feral Man
The most fundamental reason criminogenic behavior occurs is a lack of faith, family, and formation.
As a criminologist with years of actual field experience as a law enforcement officer, I have seen the worst of man, and often the best of man. However, the last few decades have been a quick descent into the worst of man. I call this current phenomenon, the advent of the feral man. Research has shown that mankind can be cruel, but the cruelty must have some sort of root within a person’s own psychopathy, often influence by cruelty, the influence of anti-social authority figures, peer pressure, and other social interactions. The most fundamental reason criminogenic behavior occurs is a lack of faith, family, and formation.
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Retail Property Crime
The National Retail Federation is out with its 2022 Retail Security Survey. And it says retail “shrink” — which includes problems like theft, gift card fraud and inventory mismanagement — accounted for $95 billion worth of losses last year. That is about $5 billion more than the year before. “They’re (criminals) smart,” he said. “They will often steal just below the felony threshold. And they are also aiming for certain types of products.” People coming into stores to steal accounts for close to 40% of retail shrink. Thirty percent is theft by employees. Target stores are getting looted, and it is taking a huge bite out of profits. The discount retailer told reporters on a call to discuss its third quarter earnings results that inventory shrinkage — or the disappearance of merchandise — has reduced its gross profit margin by $400 million so far in 2022 compared to 2021. Goods stolen from stores increased to $94.5 billion in losses in 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020, according to a new report from the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Retail Armed Robberies
Here’s a new vocabulary phrase, “Flash mob robbery crews.” No, these are not the caravans that pull up to high-end retailers downtown and raid stores for merchandise. These flash mobs, according to multiple sources within Chicago law enforcement and city government, are cars loaded with sometimes-armed people who are driving to neighborhoods to conduct street robbery sprees. Police now believe the huge surge in robberies and carjackings are the work of groups of people who travel in two or three cars to a part of the city with the sole purpose of robbing people on the street sometimes eight people at a time. Investigators now understand that two or three carloads of people are traveling to the city where they separate and commit a quick burst of robberies, usually during the later evening hours, according to officials with knowledge of the crimes.
According to reports, crime data comparing armed robberies in 2021 versus the same time period the year prior shows that armed robberies are on the rise across the city of Los Angeles and have significantly increased in certain areas within the city. Carjackings at gas stations in Philadelphia are up over 400 percent in 2022 compared to 2021. On November 14, 2022, the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed to a report by The Trace that indicates there were no carjackings at Philadelphia gas stations “between 2018 and 2020.”
“Mob mentality,” as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a large and disorderly crowd of people, especially one bent on riotous or destructive action.” American criminals got their first taste of mob violence during the pandemic of 2020 and have developed a new thirst for it.
Causes of mob mentality to understand this better, social psychology gives these causes:
Deindividuation—when people are part of a group, they experience a loss of self-awareness.
Identity—when people are part of a group, they can lose their sense of individual identity.
Emotions—being part of a group can lead to heightened emotional states, be that excitement, anger, hostility, etc.
Acceptability—behaviors that are usually seen as unacceptable become acceptable when others in a group are seen carrying them out.
Anonymity—people feel anonymous within a large group, which reduces their sense of responsibility and accountability.
Diffusion of responsibility—being part of a group creates the perception that violent or unacceptable behavior is not a personal responsibility but a group one. The larger the group or crowd, the more likely there will be deindividuation and diffusion of responsibility.
Forty-two percent of America’s Generation Z are dealing with a mental health condition, a new survey finds. A range of these issues were identified during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis by Harmony Healthcare IT suggests tens of millions of Gen Z young adults started dealing with a mental health problem in the months immediately following the start of the global pandemic in March 2020. The survey highlights a staggering percentage of young adults diagnosed with anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the pandemic. Twenty percent of the 1,000 Gen Z study participants say they have a regular therapist, 57 percent take regular medication, and 39 percent attend therapy for mental health issues once a week. Gen Zers are also two times more likely than millennials or Gen Xers to report struggling with daily emotional distress issues. More than two in five of the country’s 68 million Gen Zers have a clinically diagnosed mental health condition. Nine in 10 Gen Z adults diagnosed with mental health issues say they struggle specifically with anxiety and eight in ten say they fight against frequent bouts of depression.
Mental health disorders can be caused by genetics as well as environmental influences. And these disorders are only compounded by our fast-paced society that brings more worry and stress than previous generations. With the increase in drug dependencies, alcohol consumption, and gambling coupled with poor diet, lack of exercise and greater exposure to mental and physical abuse, mental health issues are at an all-time high.
In the late 1970’s, America’s mental health public policy began to shift away from treatment of many disorders at mental health facilities. After 50 years, we have steadily seen this philosophy has had a dramatic effect in the treatment of mental health disorders and the continued closing of mental health hospitals has only exacerbating the problem. The school of thought was that most patients would do well within the community as opposed to being in hospitals, so overtime the facilities were dissolved. Now, there are not enough beds to house patients in real need of psychiatric treatment. We have tried community-based treatment centers but even these centers are unable to get the structured care that many mentally ill patients need. As a result, prisons and jails have become the option for individuals with psychiatric health problems and they are not funded or equipped to handle the care that most of the mentally ill require.
Sheriffs across the country have warned for the last twenty years of this growing problem of mental illness within the jails. In most jails, 60-70% of inmates are on some sort of psychotropic medicine. America’s sheriffs use classification systems when they book into jail inmates or detainees. This system includes the identification of not only criminal history backgrounds but also medical and mental well-being. This means that we have a system to identify those in need, but the sheriffs do not have a way to hand the inmates over to mental health facilities that may be the better option for long term treatment. Long-term recovery and a stable, structured environment are necessary for many mental health conditions, and this requires mental health hospitals. Patients with psychiatric disorders also need to have medications on a regular cycle as well as therapy sessions. These cases are specifically where psychiatric hospitals come into play.
Young people are wasting all their waking free time on entertainment instead of personal development or service to others. According to a study done in the United Kingdom, the researchers surveyed 1,600 persons ages 11 to 18 in May 2022. On average, the study participants reported using digital media an average of 10 hours and four minutes per day, on such entertainment activities as social media, video chat, texting, shopping, and gaming. “The adolescents most likely to be depressed, lonely, and dissatisfied with life are heavy digital media users in stepparent, single-parent, or other non-intact families,” write study authors Twenge, Wendy Wang, Jenet Erickson, and Brad Wilcox. “The link between excessive technology use and poor mental health is larger for youth in non-intact families compared to those in intact families.” Other studies on children’s screen use reinforce this finding that America’s young people are wasting almost all of their waking free time on entertainment instead of personal growth or service to others. As this study points out, this shift has happened extremely quickly, and it’s not all because of the 2020-2022 Covid lockdowns that also arrested American children’s development. In other studies, outcomes of the online social contagion, using similar modeling approaches and exploiting data from many sources, examined the ‘spread’ of obesity, alcohol consumption, loneliness, depression, drug use, divorce, and cooperative behavior which can lead to confirmation biases.
There is also research that has examined the spread of political mobilization in which results suggest that online messages might influence a variety of offline behaviors which has implications regarding the role of online social media in society, which can also foment social anarchy, another social contagion that has increase in the last few years.
There is another social contagion associated with incivility in that if uncivil behavior occurs and is not confronted by corrective feedback or consequences, it tends to be more readily repeated and spreads to others. Additionally, observational learning theory describes the process of learning by watching others, retaining the information, and then later replicating the behaviors that were observed. There are a number of learning theories, such as classical conditioning and operant conditioning, that emphasize how direct experience, reinforcement, or punishment can lead to learning. However, a great deal of learning happens indirectly and unconsciously.
Jim Taylor, a psychologist at the University of San Francisco, writing in the Huffington Post contends that “Civility is about something far more important than how people comport themselves with others. Rather, civility is an expression of a fundamental understanding and respect for the laws, rules, and norms (written and implicit) that guide its citizens in understanding what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For a society to function, people must be willing to accept those structures. Though still in the distance, the loss of civility is a step toward anarchy, where anything goes; you can say or do anything, regardless of the consequences.”
How does a community resolve various individuals’ competing interests? What if a group directly opposes someone else’s values and interests. And further, what if the group that has perceived power criminalizes another groups values and interests. There was a time in America, that people could have varied values and there might be arguments over who values carried more weight, but there was never an argument that in America a person could have a different value. In the last few decades, we tend to navigate these situations through self-assertion, manipulation, and power moves.
As Pope John Paul II wrote in his masterpiece Evangelium Vitae 19, on the topic of moral relativism, “At another level, the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them….it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of "the strong" against the weak who have no choice but to submit.”
He went on to write in Evangelium Vitae (20), “This view of freedom (moral relativism) leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one must defend oneself. Thus, society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the ‘right’ ceases to be such because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism.”
The Foundational Elements of Crime Pathology
The foundational elements of criminal pathology are based on the premise that one’s criminal pathology drivers are predicated on a three-legged stool of success, which are faith, family, and formation. With respect to faith, Economist, Richard Freeman, at Harvard University who studies delinquency and crime in heavily concentrated socially disorganized communities, determined it is true that crime is concentrated in disadvantaged communities, but it is also true that the majority of poor urban youth do not turn to crime and deviance, even though they live in places where crime rates tend to be higher than normal. Freeman's study was helpful because it identified factors that helped these teens become "resilient youth" kids who stay out of trouble despite the bad neighborhoods in which they reside. More than a decade later, Dr. Byron Johnson of Baylor University replicated Freeman's 1986 study and found strong empirical support for his conclusions that active participation in a church plays a critical protective role and helps youth to be resilient to the negative influences of living in economically impoverished environments.
The scholarly evidence suggests that at the heart of the explosion of crime in America is related to family and specifically the loss of the capacity of fathers and mothers responsible in caring for the children they bring into the world. This loss of love and guidance at the intimate levels of marriage and family has broad social consequences for children and for the wider community. The empirical evidence shows that too many young men and women from broken families tend to have a much weaker sense of connection with their neighborhood and are prone to exploit its members to satisfy their unmet needs or desires. This contributes to a loss of a sense of community and to the disintegration of neighborhoods into social chaos and violent crime. If policymakers are to deal with the root causes of crime, they must deal with the rapid rise of illegitimacy. Broken family creates conditions to predispose children to criminal activities. Fatherless families with mother’s unable or unwilling to provide necessary affection, fighting and domestic violence, inadequate child supervision and discipline, and mistreatment of children are all common characteristics of broken families that also contribute to criminal activity. Over the past fifty years, the rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers. State-by-state analysis, by scholars from the Heritage Foundation, indicates that a 10 percent increase in the percentage of children living in single-parent homes leads typically to a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime.
The formation of children is derived from both parents and from other family members. Family environment is the first educational environment because in this family every individual or a child first get education and guidance. This formation is a change in the child where there is infinite development in growth, but also provides a series of changes that take place continuously and are fixed from the physical and spiritual functions of the individual to the stage of maturity through growth. Therefore, the family has an especially important influence in the period of child’s formation to have a basic knowledge of the ethics and norms that prevail in the community against himself.
What can be done?
Changing systems to address significant mental health issues and social contagions are a tall order, but there are some immediate criminal justice public policy areas of improvement to consider:
1. The criminal justice system should focus on violent offenders first, especially recidivists that continue to commit violent crimes. Sixty-three percent of prisoners released will reoffend within the first three years of their release. Seventy-one percent within the first five years. Eighty-one percent of offenders under the age of twenty-four were arrested within the five years of their release.
2. Mob criminality should be a focus for law enforcement to set a standard that this type of criminal behavior will never be tolerated in a free society.
3. Reign in rogue prosecutors that are using lax bail reform to push their own political agendas, which can increase mob violence. Police officers spend thousands of manhours arresting and re-arresting offenders. Bail should be set based on an evidence-based model such as the jail classification model.
4. We must fund policing accordingly and not through fines, fees, and forfeitures supplantation, but instead through general funding mechanisms. This is especially true for sheriff’s offices that run and maintain most of our jails and detention facilities. Police should never have to face a policing for profit accusation with their communities.
5. We must address our current mental health public policies and ensure that we can used long-term recovery and a stable, structured environments for mental health conditions, and this includes mental health hospitals. Patients with psychiatric disorders need to have medications on a regular cycle and therapy sessions that long-term psychiatric hospitals can provide. An opportunity for improvement exists for mental health facilities to work in concert with jail facilities since jails are the facilities triaging inmates through classification.
6. We need to develop a new recruiting and retention public policy for our nation’s police and correctional officers. America is in crises due to the shortage of police officers.
7. Our criminal justice system must re-focus its efforts toward evidenced-based policing concepts, which uses technology, current crime data, and key performance indicators in order to direct valuable police resources directly to high impact, violent crime areas, especially in communities of color that suffer from significant “Black on Black” violence and victimization.
8. Until law and order are restored the community will be cautious in helping police solve crime. When offenders are out of bail or receive lax prison sentences, it is easier for these offenders to intimidate and scare the public into silence.
9. Police officers fear being incorrectly accused of committing crimes and feel as if the department and/or the community does not support their work. These fears called the Ferguson Effect impact adversely the psyche of the officer greatly.
10. Finally, as it most things crime reduction starts at home and what I refer to as the foundational elements of criminal pathology that are based on the premise that one’s criminal pathology drivers are predicated on a three-legged stool success, which are faith, family, and formation.
Crime and Society Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.