Are Veterans More Likely to Commit Violent Crime? If you read the New York Times you would think so. I remember reading a book called. “Damned Lies and Statistics” by Joel Best. In this book, Best shows how statistics are used in the media to give a story credibility. When you go back to the study or data used, a quite different conclusion may be found. The New York Times uses data that appears to show Veterans are more violent or likely to cause a fatal accident. Read on and see the other side of this story. Hopefully, when you see statistics in news stories, you will dig deeper and actually look at the data used to make their point.
The Wacko-Vet Myth Now echoed by the New York Times.
by John J. DiIulio Jr.
01/14/2008 4:00:00 PM
IN A PAGE-ONE STORY published Sunday, January 13, 2008, “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles,” the New York Times reported on homicides by veterans of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seven Times reporters contributed to the lengthy story, which was co-authored by Deborah Sontag and Lizette Alvarez.
The Times “found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war.” All but one case involved male veterans. They speculated that their research “most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings” were “reported publicly or in detail,” and because “it was often not possible to determine the deployment history of other service members arrested on homicide charges.”
The Times cited experts including Robert Jay Lifton, a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who “used to run ‘rap groups’ for Vietnam veterans and fought to earn recognition for what became known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.” The story noted that numerous “studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, gun ownership, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse–and criminality.” It also quoted criminologist Lawrence W. Sherman: “The real tragedy in these veterans’ cases is that, where PTSD is a factor, it is highly treatable. . . . And when people are exposed to serious trauma and don’t get it treated, it is a
serious risk factor for violence.”
April 2007, a detailed report showing that veterans were
half as likely as non-veterans to be in prison, but that was explained
mainly by the fact that two-thirds of male veterans in the population
at large were aged 55 or older (older people are less likely to be
found behind bars). The incarcerated veterans were somewhat more likely
than incarcerated non-veterans to have committed violent crimes, and
far more likely to have committed violent crimes against females or
minors. There is, however, no evidence at all that ex-military
personnel, including veterans who served in combat theatres and saw
action, figure significantly or disproportionately in murder, rape,
robbery, burglary, or property crimes.
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