, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 559-571,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The 1 % of the population accountable for 63 % of all violent crime convictions

Abstract

Purpose

Population-based studies on violent crime and background factors may provide an understanding of the relationships between susceptibility factors and crime. We aimed to determine the distribution of violent crime convictions in the Swedish population 1973–2004 and to identify criminal, academic, parental, and psychiatric risk factors for persistence in violent crime.

Method

The nationwide multi-generation register was used with many other linked nationwide registers to select participants. All individuals born in 1958–1980 (2,393,765 individuals) were included. Persistent violent offenders (those with a lifetime history of three or more violent crime convictions) were compared with individuals having one or two such convictions, and to matched non-offenders. Independent variables were gender, age of first conviction for a violent crime, nonviolent crime convictions, and diagnoses for major mental disorders, personality disorders, and substance use disorders.

Results

A total of 93,642 individuals (3.9 %) had at least one violent conviction. The distribution of convictions was highly skewed; 24,342 persistent violent offenders (1.0 % of the total population) accounted for 63.2 % of all convictions. Persistence in violence was associated with male sex (OR 2.5), personality disorder (OR 2.3), violent crime conviction before age 19 (OR 2.0), drug-related offenses (OR 1.9), nonviolent criminality (OR 1.9), substance use disorder (OR 1.9), and major mental disorder (OR 1.3).

Conclusions

The majority of violent crimes are perpetrated by a small number of persistent violent offenders, typically males, characterized by early onset of violent criminality, substance abuse, personality disorders, and nonviolent criminality.