Community Psychiatric Centers
Monroeville, Greensburg, Monessen, and Wilkinsburg Pittsburgh

December 18, 2012

Autism and Violent Crimes: Let’s Look at the Numbers

Written by Dr. John Carosso

Recent events and speculation

The recent events in Connecticut are abhorrent and troubling beyond words. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the parents, families, and all those affected.

This incident is also raising speculation and fears that people with autism, or more specifically Asperger’s Disorder, are more likely to be considered dangerous or violent. Of course, we don't know the condition or diagnosis of the perpetrator; nevertheless, let’s begin now to squelch such foolish speculation.

Is it true that people with autism are more prone toward violent crime?

Short answer: NO

Let’s spell it out

A number of researchers including Hippler et al (2009) have found that rates of violent crime committed by individuals with Autism and Asperger’s Disorder is quite comparable to the population at large, i.e. 1.30% compared to 1.25% of the male population, respectively. Moreover, the bulk of the “violent” crimes committed by those with Autism were related to property offenses. Violence against people was found to be exceedingly rare.

Hippler points out, for example:

“…in the case records spanning 22 years and 33 convictions, there were only three cases of bodily injury, one case of robbery and one case of violent and threatening behavior.”

The researchers have also found that the more severe the autism, the less likely to commit a violent crime.

Who hurts who?

Given the inherent communication and social deficits, individuals with autism may be more prone to shout-out or shove others in frustration, but violence with intent to harm is very rare. In fact, it’s abundantly clear that people with autism are far more likely to be the victim of various forms of crime, abuse, bullying, and mistreatment than they would ever perpetrate on others.

Let’s Wait for Facts

We’ll see how this story unfolds. Either way, it’s obvious the Connecticut perpetrator was extraordinarily disturbed; in no way should we cast aspersions on an entire group of individuals based on happenstance. Now, please help others to understand that people with autism need our support and compassion; in no way are they to be feared, maligned, or stereotyped.

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