But Parsing Crime Statistics Are So Much Fun, I'd Hate To Blow The Game

I think I understand what this person is saying in this interview but there's something a little off with it:

The very fact that this is such a rare event should get some consideration in their mind. One reason people are talking about it is because it's so strikingly unusual. It's within a particular community . . . this is a very insolated [sic] incident. I don't know there are really lessons for outsiders here at all, because we don't yet know all the details. So any reassessment should focus on the rarity of the event. This is just not something that's likely to happen very often.

It's being said in the context of why we shouldn't worry that our children will be plucked off the street and killed and dismembered, but the part about not knowing whether there are lessons for "outsiders" "at all" was what grabbed me. Like I said, I think I understand the inclination to see a story like that and feel a little more comfortable knowing that since you're not an orthodox Jew then you're insulated from this particular crime. At least that's what the interviewee seems to be saying: Parents, don't freak out because this all happened in a very isolated community. Or, yes, it's horrific but it's not like it's the West Nickel Mines School or even Etan Patz — those killings were completely random, and far more upsetting.

In a way, it seems like the same kind of crime statistic calculus that probably most of us employ when we process the dangers of life — e.g., "sure there are a lot of murders in [X] community, but the vast majority are drug related so we don't have to worry." Or to take a more recent example, sure there were a bunch of bodies dumped out on Long Island, but they were prostitutes, so you don't have to worry. The implication being that if you're not involved in the drug trade or prostitution then you're not going to be a target.

That was the storyline in the recent murders in Phildelphia's Kensington neighborhood (same neighborhood name; strange) — that the women the suspect killed were all addicted to drugs. But I don't know that it's been firmly established that all the victims were actually drug addicts. On the other hand, it certainly makes you feel better knowing that if you're not a drug addict (or a woman) (or even just hanging out in Kensington) then you're probably safe.

Maybe it's not so much about marginalizing "the other" as it is telling yourself whatever you have to tell yourself in order to avoid turning into a housebound neurotic. Or, it's human nature to want to insulate yourself from the specter of truly fucked up, truly random violence — you just don't usually get to hear it stated so baldly. Except of course I think people think it — via either the way the media subconsciously, unconsciously or semi-consciously reports horrific news (or at least how a society's reptilian brain functions when it comes to processing crime) in underclass communities. Most of the time people seem to find it very easy to perform the kind of crime statistic calculus that makes living easier. Then something "unusual" happens — and people still find a way to explain it away.

Posted: July 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: For Reals No For Serious | Tags: , , ,