Thousands of people in California are the victims of violent crime every year, with the consequences of those crimes ranging from relatively minor to utterly devastating. One of the most pressing issues in our society is understanding why violent crime happens.
One frequent suggestion is the link between violent crimes and mental illness. Specifically, the link between crime and schizophrenia. Prominent cases of violent crime involving schizophrenic perpetrators have been huge news stories, and there’s a common belief that schizophrenia leads to violence.
Is there a link between schizophrenia and violent crime?
Studies have shown that schizophrenic people are several times more likely than the general population to commit a crime, especially a violent crime. The exact figures range from four to seven times more likely than the average person to engage in a violent crime, depending on the study.
There are a few reasons why this is the case. One is the condition itself, which can result in delusions and hallucinations. These frightening thoughts and images can cause people with schizophrenia to lash out or act violently.
Another cause is the link between schizophrenia and substance abuse. Schizophrenics are more likely to abuse substances than the general public, and substance abuse has its own link with crime.
Does this mean schizophrenic people are always dangerous?
It’s important to put the risk posed by schizophrenic people into context. Only about 10% of schizophrenic people will engage in violent crime in their lives. That means that most people with schizophrenia are not violent.
While it’s true that the rate of violence is higher for schizophrenics than the general public, this still represents a small portion of those with this mental illness. And it’s not possible to suggest that someone is violent or a likely threat because they suffer from schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that does increase the chances that a person might engage in violent crime, on a statistical level. But keep in mind that most schizophrenic people never have nor will never commit a violent crime.