Old Time Radio
Back in the 1940s there was a very popular radio show where people with difficult problems or issues would call on the series hero, “George Valentine” as a private investigator and he would “do it” meaning he would solve their problem. The show starred Bob Bailey and can still sometimes be heard on Sirius XMs Radio Classics channel.
Murder Rate Correlation
I spent a large part of yesterday trying to correlate murder rates in large cities to some some definitive predictor of what was most likely the cause in fact of higher murder rates.
The first thing I looked at was gun control.
Two of the cities were very high, with Baltimore, Maryland, having a murder rate of 57.8 per 100,000 population, a stratospheric number. Chicago also had a very high murder rate, and it has gotten worse since the statistics from 2015 were the last set used. Both of these cities have draconian gun control laws, and it has done absolutely nothing to stop the spread of crime and the huge number of murders they experience.
“Ah ha!” I said, “I’ve found the key.”
And this of course explains why you don’t use data sets of two. Because St. Louis, Missouri, where there is constitutional carry (but not in 2015) has a murder rate of 59.8, and concealed carry has been the law there for roughly seven years. So, gun control, or at least, gun control alone, does not predict murder rates.
What about race? Does race predict high murder rates? The answer is no, there is an exceptionally weak correlation. The one factor that really stood out was political control. In all the cities the mayor was a Democrat. Except, again, that did not track with murder rates. St. Louis has a democrat mayor, but so does Albuquerque, NM, with a murder rate of 2.2
As I sat there thinking about it, I recognized that at least part of the problem might be what I call the “illusion of safety” that comes from living in a city with a police organization and active presence.
Urban v. Non-Urban
Murder rates in Texas, as a general rule are lower, even for big cities, than are the murder rates in more eastern states and cities. It occurred to me that one reason for this could well be the perception among Texans that they are responsible for their own personal defense, and the fact that this ethic is hard-wired into Texans.
In short, murder rates in urban areas always outstrip murder rates in suburban areas, in part for reasons of mobility (suburban travel requires a car; travel inside a city can be by foot). Additionally, population density provides both more targets of opportunity and more targets of happenstance (kids hit by stray bullets). Residents of cities tend to have more human contact and more divergent human contact than those in outlying areas. It creates the “perfect storm” where conditions allow mayhem to grow out of misunderstandings.
Safety in Numbers?
There is a perception deep-wired into all of us that there is safety in numbers, that when we are with, say, ten people, our odds are better than when we’re alone. Yet the kinds of indiscriminate fire that accompany gang violence actually makes it less safe if the one that is being shot at is close to you or your group. As important, when there is a greater population, even where there is a greater number of police, they have a much higher volume of calls. Add to that the issue that half of those calls amount to asking people to simply be reasonable with one another, and again, there is an explanation for why it takes the police an hour, sometimes, to respond to a call.
That doesn’t mean there are not problems with enforcement priorities too. For example, in my town of Miramar Beach, Florida, over Spring Break the Walton County Sheriff’s office devotes a large number of officers to stopping under-age drinking. There is no doubt this makes driving safer. However, when you have three cop cars converging on a small 4 bedroom house to arrest under-age drinkers that are drinking, in private, behind a gate, by a pool, that suggests that your priorities may be a bit out of order. I fully understand that you break the law whether anyone sees you or not, but the bottom line is, kids in that house had come home to drink in private and would not have been on the road.
Nevertheless, the idea that you’re safer in a crowded city than on your own in the country is a fiction. It’s a fiction because in the country, you are 911. You have to be prepared to defend yourself, because the sheriff is likely at least half an hour away. In the city, with neighbors all around, you may feel safer, but you are not going to be safer.
My thesis is that those in the confines of a city trust their police to protect them, and don’t learn that this trust is misplaced (in the sense that there are not enough police, not from the standpoint that the police won’t do all they can), until the wolf is at the door. Then, with nothing to stand in the way of the criminal, they either get robbed, raped or murdered. It is sad, and it is preventable.
Live in the Moment
Let George Do It may be a great slogan for a radio show, but it is a very poor way to live your life or provide for your own personal security. We have an intrusion alarm, two dogs, and multiple firearms at our house. In our home, no one is going to sneak up on us. And we are more than willing to let the police handle any intrusion. Our plan is to converge on the bedroom with the fast-action gun safe, lock the door, warn the intruder, and wait for the police. But if one comes through the bedroom door, that intruder will be met with all the force legal under the circumstances. Similarly, when we are out, we take note of our surroundings, and if something doesn’t look right, we retreat to somewhere that’s safe. We never pull up right behind someone else at a stop light, and we never ever drive with windows down. The one thing that carjacking victims, robbery victims, and other violent crime victims all say is “it happened so fast!” In truth, it happened in real time, but it seemed fast because their minds were engaged mentally on something else until they were jarred into a fight for survival.
Don’t be that guy (or gal).