Four Oakland police officers shot down. An Alabama man strolling a town with a rifle, looking for victims. Seven elderly people shot dead at a North Carolina nursing home. Six people die in an apparent murder-suicide in an upscale Santa Clara, Ca., neighborhood. The Christian Science Monitor says such incidents may be happening more often because people feel desperate pressure from job losses and other economic hardship.
“Most of these mass killings are precipitated by some catastrophic loss, and when the economy goes south, there are simply more of these losses,” says criminologist Jack Levin of Northeastern University. Direct correlation between economic cycles and homicides is difficult to prove, says criminologist Shawn Bushway of the University at Albany in New York. But an economic downturn of this breadth and depth hasn’t been seen since data began to be collected after World War II. “This is not the average situation,” Bushway says. The potential link between murder-suicides and the economy is an area of study for the Violence Policy Center in Washington. “We’ve been looking at this issue of whether there are more murder-suicides [and] a pattern is starting to develop that may point in that direction,” says the center’s Kristen Rand.