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Psychiatric diagnosis differs among criminal gang members compared to other violent offenders

2017-01-31

A study, which examines the characteristics of both the crime and the perpetrator in cases involving convicted males, reveals that members of criminal gangs differ markedly from other violent offenders. 

It examines the characteristics of both the crime and the perpetrator in cases involving convicted males, reveals that members of criminal gangs differ markedly from other violent offenders. 

Findings included the fact that members of criminal gangs are younger and tend to use firearms against their victims. The study is the first of its kind in Sweden.

“Our study clearly shows that we’re looking at two completely different groups of individuals,” said Marie Väfors Fritz, researcher at the Department of Criminology. 

“This means that crime prevention work ought to be adapted to each individual group. As gang members do not have the same mental vulnerability as other violent offenders, the focus should be more on halting their criminal lifestyle rather than providing psychiatric help, which could be relevant to the other group.”

Marie Väfors Fritz is responsible for the study together with the principal author, Ardavan Khoshnood, a physician at Skåne University Hospital, who also holds a master’s degree in criminology from Malmö University.

Firearms and relationship with the victim

The researchers examined judgments passed in a local district court and a court of appeal during the period 2009-2013 to identify perpetrators found guilty of murder, manslaughter, attempted murder or attempted manslaughter. They examined the offender characteristics of nine individuals, including psychiatric diagnosis and socio-economic status, as well as six crime characteristics, such as crime scene and modus operandi.

“We conducted a cluster analysis that revealed that a number of significant factors set the two groups apart, including modus operandi, i.e. how the victim was murdered or attacked, and homicide typology, i.e. the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator,” said Khoshnood.

Use of firearms in a public place                                          

The first of the two groups were classified as members of criminal gangs, they were aged between and 15-33 and they mainly used a firearm in a public place. Their criminal actions were generally gang-related and the majority of the perpetrators did not have a psychiatric diagnosis when they were convicted.

The other group was older, 37-59, and mainly used knives or sharp weapons on their victims, who were either a partner or a close friend,” explained Khoshnood.The scene of the crime for this group was generally domestic and the vast majority of the perpetrators had a psychiatric diagnosis.

Firearms cause more deaths                                    

Ardavan Khoshnood explained: “Our study includes an unusually large number of shootings compared with other Swedish and Scandinavian studies. Our results also show that firearms led to more deaths, even though knives were used more often. This is of interest as it could be an indication of a break in the trend.” 

The co-authors of the study intende to carry out further research together.

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Johan Portland