Violent Crime​—What Is Happening?

FRANK and Gabriella strolled along the Oregon, U.S.A., seashore in the early morning hours, watching the sunrise. They had no inkling of what was about to happen. Minutes later, they were both dead, shot in the head at close range. Was it vengeance? Or jealousy? Neither. The gunman, a stranger, fulfilled a fantasy​—he wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.

“On Sunday 28th April 1996 Martin Bryant won the attention of the Western world by having the time of his life. Shooting everyone he met as he wandered through Port Arthur, Tasmania, he achieved a wonderful thrill of exultation and power.” (A Study of Our Decline, by Philip Atkinson) He also caused the deaths of 35 people!

A 65-year-old retiree in Canada was out for his early-morning bike ride. As he pedaled along, he was hit from behind by a driver who left him for dead. His bike was dragged more than 700 yards [about 700 m] down the road. At first, it was thought to be a hit-and-run accident, but a further investigation indicated that he had been hit by the driver of a stolen car, out for a joyride. Apparently, hitting the cyclist was part of the “thrill.”

A Different Type of Crime?

Crime has been with us for centuries, but the types cited above cause people to exclaim: “Why? How could anyone even think of doing such a thing?” Although common crimes, like thievery or fraud, may not turn many heads, there is an increasing category of deeds that grabs media attention and causes people to say to themselves, ‘This is senseless! What is happening to this world?’

These crimes are different. They are often shocking and vicious in nature. As in the examples above, they are usually committed against innocent people who do not know the perpetrators. In addition, there often seems to be no obvious motive to these violent crimes. The list of mindless acts goes on and on.

In April 1999 in Colorado, U.S.A., 2 students killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves in a school shooting. A man died in California in 1982 after taking  an over-the-counter medicine that someone had laced with strychnine. In 1993, two ten-year-old boys induced two-year-old James Bulger to leave the shopping mall in Bootle, Merseyside, England, where his mother was in a butcher shop. They took him down to a railway line and bludgeoned him to death.

Some acts can be classified as terrorism, such as the Tokyo subway poisoning in 1995. Japan was shocked when poison gas was released by cult members in a Tokyo subway, killing 12 and injuring thousands. Few can forget the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C., which claimed some 3,000 lives, and the bombing last year in Bali, Indonesia, that took nearly 200 lives.

It is obvious that such violent crimes have become quite pervasive. The problem is worldwide, affecting many nations and classes of people.

In some cases it is almost as if the perpetrators were in competition, trying to see who could commit the most shocking crime. Furthermore, hate crimes are increasingly more common. These are carried out with extreme cruelty against people whose only “fault” is that they are of a different race, religion, or ethnic group​—as was the case in 1994 when some 800,000 Tutsi were murdered in Rwanda.

All of this causes many to think: ‘What is happening? Was it like this before? What could be behind such awful crimes? What hope is there for reducing or eliminating such vicious crimes?’ The following articles will deal with these and other questions.

[Blurb on page 4]

Violent crimes are often committed against random victims and without obvious motive