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Dr. Rosenfeld on Criminology and the Opioid Epidemic

By Samantha Walker

“It is inconceivable that imprisonment is not related to crime rate!” stated Dr. Rosenfeld, the former president of the American Society of Criminology, who presented during Thursday’s common hour.

Rosenfeld’s presentation covered criminology, homicide, and the opioid epidemic.

According to Rosenfeld, “criminology is the study of variation, law making, law-breaking, and why law-breaking is higher in certain places.”

He focused on homicide in the United States and rural Pennsylvania.

One of Dr. Rosenfeld’s main questions when investigating crime rates is “why does Jim commit more crime than Joe?”, so why do certain areas have a higher crime rate than others.

Personally, Rosenfeld focuses on studying homicide, which he considers “the best-measured offense.”

Rosenfeld’s presentation consisted of multiple graphs to depict change over time. When comparing homicide rates in the United States to Pennsylvania, from 2005 to 2017 the rates parallel each other.

When comparing metropolitan Pennsylvania to non-metropolitan, Rosenfeld’s graphs suggested a rise in homicide in rural Pennsylvania.

Despite what the news may depict, crime levels are half of what they were in the early 1990s.

When studying crime rates, Rosenfeld pointed out multiple socio-economic disadvantages a community may face, such as population size or diversity, policing and imprisonment, and underground markets selling stolen or illicit drugs.

Besides crime rates, Dr. Rosenfeld also talked about the opioid epidemic.

One of his questions was whether the opioid epidemic is causing a rise in crime just as crack cocaine had in the early 90s.

Rosenfeld took the time to compare the 90s crack cocaine problem to the current struggle with opioids. One detail he mentioned was that while cocaine was a crime problem, opioid is being treated as a public health crisis.

Though Rosenfeld was comparing the two, he was not suggesting that opioid is as violent as the crack cocaine epidemic was. But he did consider it risky because those looking for opioids are going into violent illicit drug markets to get the drugs they desire.

When looking to solve the current epidemic, Rosenfeld mentioned avoiding mass arrests and expanding treatment as possible solutions.

Though Rosenfeld compared the two-drug epidemics, he believes it would be a mistake to treat the opioid epidemic as a war on drugs as they did with the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1990s.

To finish his presentation he pointed out that, “there is no epidemic in our history with as high a death rate as the opioid epidemic”.

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