What to Worry About

Snarky, but basically correct:

3. Male Family Members and Friends (Especially if they are drunk and you are young foreign born.)

It’s the strange man we fear -- the footsteps in the dark -- the unlocked back door. The correct part of the constant American crime fantasy is that it is usually a man hunting us. Approximately 90% of all murders are committed males. But stop worrying so much about strangers you don't know and think about the strangers you know. Too often, we invite our predators in and offer them a drink. The leading cause of death for black women from 18-45 is domestic violence. The New York Health Department found that lovers committed 60% of all murders of women. Young foreign-born women were 87% more likely to be killed by a lover than a stranger. Females are much more likely to be victimized by someone they know. Strangers committed about 14% of all murders in 2002 while a family member or an acquaintance committed 43%. Family members commit two-thirds of murders of children under five. Two-thirds of violent crimes committed by acquaintances involved alcohol. Think about that at your next dinner party.

3. People of Your Own So-called Race

An extension of our narcissism is the belief that people who are like us are sane. But it’s the people who are most like us who are mostly likely to kill us. Blacks murdered more than 90% black murder victims. White criminals murdered more than 80% of white murder victims. I'm not saying strangers are safer than the people we know; I'm just saying they might be.

Posted on May 1, 2008 at 2:43 PM • 28 Comments

Comments

Dane BrammageMay 1, 2008 11:39 PM

Interesting article. Thanks.


In the spirit of general snarkiness,

> Strangers committed about 14% of
> all murders in 2002 while a family
> member or an acquaintance
> committed 43%.

Another 12% were killed by the family cat. The remaining 28% of victims would not identify their murderer, but authorities strongly suspect it was either Chuck Norris or Bruce Schneier.

WarLordMay 1, 2008 11:55 PM

Greetings

Murder is a crime of propinquity, not randomness

They must know you to dislike you enough...

Enjoy the journey

WarLord

mamboMay 2, 2008 12:22 AM

'but authorities strongly suspect it was either Chuck Norris or Bruce Schneier."
Bruce doesn't kill people, people kill themselves when they are overcome by his skillz.

blood butlerMay 2, 2008 1:44 AM

"Two-thirds of violent crimes committed by acquaintances involved alcohol."

Why is marijuana illegal in the land of the free?

DogMay 2, 2008 5:36 AM

I quite agree with WarLord.
Of course closer people have more time / opportunities / reasons to commit a crime on us rather than a distant subject, and each year stats correctly report they does.
But this should not fool us about the dangerousness of a subject, which has nothing to do on how close the subject is to us; it is just a separate factor.

Like a bee vs a tiger: a bee has more odds to kill us because has more chances to meet humans, pass undetected and inspire less fear.
At the end of one year, in the world far more humans are killed by bees rather than tigers.
But if I had to chose to meet a tiger or a bee, figure out which one I'would chose?

SteveJMay 2, 2008 6:02 AM

Dog is right: the article compares "the risk from all strangers combined" against "the risk from everyone you know combined". The insinuation is that these numbers tell us something about the risk from one stranger against the risk from one person we know, but they pretty much don't.

One way to approach this article would be, "worry less about the things that don't pose a real risk". The article seems to me more like, "worry more about these other things as well". Given that we generally over-estimate several well-known risks, that's not a great approach IMO. The article doesn't mention it, but worrying too much about things isn't great for your health...

I'm not sure they've made their case about Detroit, either. OK, so it has a really high murder rate. That's primarily of interest to people who live there. If I'm a visitor to Detroit I don't care what the general murder rate is, I care what the murder rate is of visitors, and how that compares to the murder rate of natives in my home town. I don't know the numbers, so I don't know how Detroit stacks up compared with Miami, or New York, or Green Bay WI, or Baghdad. Maybe Detroit really is a dangerous place to say "hi" to a stranger, but the article chose the wrong statistic to indicate that.

Brad RMay 2, 2008 6:12 AM

"The leading cause of death for black women from 18-45 is domestic violence."

I don't know where he gets his statistics, but according to the CDC http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/... (page 39) the leading cause of death for black women aged 20-44 is malignant neoplasms. If I'm adding correctly, homicide (all causes, not just domestic) is fifth.

If you restrict it to black women aged 15-24, homicide is second. (Accidents are first.) But that's cherry-picking the stats.

Jeff DegeMay 2, 2008 6:59 AM

What's misleading here is the suggestion that the risks of attack by a family member are shared equally by everyone, and they're not.

Most families are at zero risk of attack by a family member, some are at high risk. Throwing both groups into the same statistical pool does nothing but confuse things.

There have been studies examining prior police contacts with households in which domestic homicides have occured - more than 90% of cases had prior police calls to the address with the average having had police called to the household six times.

Domestic violence doesn't just spring up out of nowhere, it's a long-established pattern. If you aren't experiencing it now, your risk of experiencing it in the near-future is effectively zero.

AnonymousMay 2, 2008 7:11 AM

@Jeff Dege

"Domestic violence doesn't just spring up out of nowhere, it's a long-established pattern."

Come now. If this was true, then we would be throwing people in jail at the first call to the home.

Fortunately, it isn't true:

http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/071011/...

"It found that nearly three-quarters of spousal homicide offenders had no prior contact with police for spousal violence. People accused of "repeated" spousal violence (one to three prior incidents of violence reported to police) preceding the homicide or attempt accounted for 22% of the total. About 4% were considered "chronic" abusers, or those who were involved in four or more police-reported incidents of abuse preceding the spousal homicide or attempt."

How do you reconcile this study with your unreferenced, Mr. Dege?

bobMay 2, 2008 7:13 AM

This just proves the fact that 92% of all statistics are bullshit.

3 statisticians went duck hunting. They called and called and finally a duck flew over. The first statistician fired at the duck and missed low. The second statistician also fired at it and missed high. The third statistician then jumped up ecstatically and shouted "We Got him!"...

JimmyMay 2, 2008 8:36 AM

And again, American Exceptionalism.

Fear of the other has been a characteristic of humans everywhere for millennia - probably vastly longer than that, if one works through evolutionary history.

Jeff DegeMay 2, 2008 9:49 AM

Try this:

"Intrafamily murderers are especially likely to have engaged in far more previous violent crimes than show up in their arrest records. But because these attacks were on spouses or other family members, they will rarely have resulted in an arrest. So domestic murderers' official records tend not to show their full prior violence, but only their adult arrests for attacking people outside their families. Most family murders are preceded by a long history of assaults."
[http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=127648]

More:
"Intrafamily murderers are especially likely to have engaged in far more
previous violent crime than show up in their arrest records. But because
these were attacks on spouses and/or other family members, they will
rarely have resulted in an arrest.{169} So domestic murderers' official
records tend not to show their full prior violence, but only their adult
arrests for attacking people outside their families. Therefore only about
"seventy to seventy- five percent of domestic homicide offenders have been
previously arrested and about half previously convicted."{170} As to how
many crimes they perpetrate within the family, even in a relatively short
space of time, "review of police records in Detroit and Kansas City" shows
that in

90% of the cases of domestic homicide, police had responded at least
once to a disturbance call at the home during the two year period prior to
the fatal incident, and in over half (54%) of the cases, they had been
called five or more times.{171}

A leading authority on domestic homicide notes: "The day-to- day reality
is that most family murders are preceded by a long history of
assaults...." Studies (including those just cited) "indicate that
intrafamily homicide is typically just one episode in a long standing
syndrome of violence."{172}"
[http://homepage.usask.ca/~sta575/cdn-firearms/Digests/600-699/v01n667]


Why the difference? I can easily see the possibility that cultural differences result in significant differences as to when and how often police are called, or how often police actually create a written record when then are called (which would be indistinguishable to after-the-fact data mining studies.)

I also get quite cautious when I see qualifications of the sort included in the study you cite:

"It found that nearly three-quarters of spousal homicide offenders had no prior contact with police for spousal violence."

How is the study defining "spousal violence"? How many police contacts did the researchers not count, because they didn't consider it to be "spousal violence"?

Another Canadian study:

"The study indicated that factors associated with firearm-related domestic homicide include: a history of violent disputes (however, in the majority of these disputes the police do not have previous knowledge); a history of substance abuse; drunkenness; an existing criminal record; separation or pending separation; and, employment and financial problems."
[http://www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca/pol-leg/res-eval/publications/reports/1990-95/summaries/dom_sum_e.asp]

That the police are sometimes unaware of the pattern of violence in these cases does not mean that the victims are not.

I'll say it again - if your domestic partner has not assaulted you in the past, the odds that he or she will do so in the future is nil.

HarryMay 2, 2008 9:55 AM

Anonymous at May 2, 2008 07:11 AM asked about the reported stat that "It found that nearly three-quarters of spousal homicide offenders had no prior contact with police for spousal violence"

Domestic violence, especially spousal abuse, is one of the two most underreported violent crimes (the other is sexual assault). Don't mistake a police report of an actual incident of abuse.

AnonymousMay 2, 2008 10:19 AM

@Harry

"Domestic violence, especially spousal abuse, is one of the two most underreported violent crimes (the other is sexual assault)."

Irrelevant. I was responding to Drege's ridiculous claim:

"There have been studies examining prior police contacts with households in which domestic homicides have occured - more than 90% of cases had prior police calls to the address with the average having had police called to the household six times."

Now you come and say these incidents are actually unreported. I don't know who is right here, but at least Dege had the good taste to utter a falsifiable claim...

BenMay 2, 2008 10:23 AM

The statistic that "you are more likely to be killed by someone you know" depends a lot on who you know.

The population at large is more likely to be killed by someone they know, but this does not necessarily apply to you! If you are shacked up with someone who is basically mad, you are far more likely to be killed by them than by a stranger. On the other hand, if you know really nice people, maybe not.

Also, we spend more time with friends and family. If we exclude people in public-facing jobs who interact with a lot of strangers all day, I'd wager that, per minute of interaction, strangers are more likely to kill you than family.

You have a lot to gain from personal relationships with friends and family, which doesn't apply in the same to strangers. We can't live without friends, so we may consider it a good bet, even if statistically....


All put together, this doesn't seem to me like it is irrational to fear someone walking behind you on a dark night, whilst trusting your husband or wife.

derfMay 2, 2008 10:36 AM

Pro-Lifers? Maybe in the short term. In the long run, not repopulating the country with natives leads to rampant illegal immigration and a complete inability to defend the nation. I guarantee that having some other nation's tanks rolling down your street is far worse for your continued well being than Pro-Lifers.

Besides - both invasion and rampant illegal immigration (if they really are two separate items) significantly increase the drunk, young, foreign born male population.

IvanMay 2, 2008 11:02 AM

Two opposite conclusions from this:

1) Fear of strangers is stupid.
2) Fear of strangers often saves us.

Which one to pick?

AnonymousMay 2, 2008 11:15 AM

@Jeff Dege

"How is the study defining "spousal violence"? How many police contacts did the researchers not count, because they didn't consider it to be "spousal violence"?"

I have no idea whatsoever.

But why can't the same questions be asked of the studies you cite?

How many police contacts did they count as "domestic violence" which actually weren't violent, domestic, or whatever?

If you don't trust "my" studies, why should I trust "your" studies?

Incredible but true: Canada is not Saudi Arabia. How can "cultural differences" between such similar societies as Canada and the USA explain the totally opposite observations?

If there is data-fudging going on, it probably isn't happening in Canada.

Here is a simple model for your consideration: the 75% "unknown to police" statistic is a reflection of the general probability that if someone decides to beat their wife, they have a relatively high probability of 0.75 of killing her. Now at this kind of probability, should the beatings continue, eventually she will end up dead. Go ahead and do the arithmetic and see how many times it will take, and compare to the distributions of "number of prior calls".

Note that it is likely the per-beating probability will increase as the beating-count goes up.

A simple model like this would explain the Canada results, and likely the USA ones too.

And if the model is correct, not worrying because you haven't been beaten yet is well into the "bad advice" area, since the likelihood of death in the first round is very high.

paranoid in virginiaMay 2, 2008 11:21 AM

I'm often worried that Angelina Jolie is going to attack me.

Jeff DegeMay 2, 2008 11:21 AM

"Irelevant. I was responding to Drege's ridiculous claim:

"There have been studies examining prior police contacts with households in which domestic homicides have occured - more than 90% of cases had prior police calls to the address with the average having had police called to the household six times."
"

Why is it ridiculous? Because it contradicts your preconceptions? Had you done a quick Google search you'd have found much discussion over whether the results of these studies were typical, or whether what these studies had found offered police any predictive value, but you'd have clearly found that these studies existed."

http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/...

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE POLICE - STUDIES IN DETROIT AND KANSAS CITY

Abstract: THE STUDY INDICATED THE NEED FOR FURTHER EFFORTS TO EXPLORE, IN AN EXPERIMENTAL AND CAREFULLY EVALUATED MANNER, WAYS OF REDUCING THE CHANCE THAT A DISPUTE WILL LEAD TO AN ASSAULT AND AN ASSAULT TO A HOMICIDE. IN KANSAS CITY IT WAS FOUND THAT THE POLICE CAN OBTAIN SOME EARLY WARNING OF ASSAULTS AND HOMICIDES. THE POLICE IN THAT CITY WERE CALLED TO THE LOCATION OF AN ASSAULT OR HOMICIDE AT LEAST ONCE BEFORE IN ABOUT 85 PERCENT OF THE CASES AND FIVE OR MORE TIMES IN 50 PERCENT OF THE CASES. IN SHORT, ANY GIVEN ASSAULT OR HOMICIDE ARREST IS LIKELY TO BE THE CULMINATION OF A SERIES OF POLICE INTERVENTIONS. WHILE THIS STUDY DOES NOT TEST METHODS OF HANDLING THOSE INTERVENTIONS SO AS TO MINIMIZE THE CHANCES THAT SUBSEQUENT ASSAULTS AND HOMICIDES WILL OCCUR, THE AUTHORS POINT OUT THAT THAT IS THE OBVIOUS NEXT STEP.

Jurgen VoorneveldMay 2, 2008 11:31 AM

There is a problem with statistics such as this; there is no control for the amount of contact a person has with family members vs strangers. Also, all the awareness of attacks by strangers causes potential victims to take precautions, strangers might be more dangerous but simply never get the chance to act.

GregMay 2, 2008 12:04 PM

Jurgen:

that hits it right on the head.
1) It doesn't address percentage of attacks whether or not they resulted in death (success being dependent on how wary you are) [and don't get me started on how attempted murder should be the exact same charge as a successful one]

2) It also doesn't address rate of incidence _per encounter_ which would be a completely different way of looking at it.

3) The simple fact is the particpant's observation (and reaction to) of the system changes it, so you _can't_ make a judgement as to which is more dangerous based on these sorts of statistics.

aikiMay 2, 2008 2:57 PM

reminds me of claims by aikido practitioners that a selling point of their art is that it affords defenses which default to inflicting just enough pain with the goal of controlling the attacker without causing permanent damage. Relevant if the attacker is a drunk relative on whom you wouldn't (on cooler reflection) want to use killing force.

SejanusMay 6, 2008 4:57 AM

We have statistics like this _because_ we fear strangers we don't know.

Patrick AustinMay 6, 2008 10:42 AM

Interesting there's so much focus on interpersonal violence and so little focus on the danger we pose to ourselves.

Overall, there are more suicides than murders in this country. 32,000 to 18,000 in 2005. In particular, a white male is THREE TIMES more likely to commit suicide with a firearm (13,700 in '05) than he is to be killed by someone else with a firearm (4,200 in '05).

We're our own worst enemies.

DeeApril 27, 2009 6:23 PM

For those who dont believe the statistics then wait uuntil you or a loved one becomes one.
try being the American dream only to have your husband murder you, only to find out later that you arent the first to be battered and abused let alona murdered by him.
now in this economy Family violence has increased 150 percent and still rising.
yes my ex is in prison getting his 3 hots and a cot where he has been the last 15 years as of sept 09 but he likes it there, he has no obligations nor any child support due his 4 wives and 7 kids before me that i never knew about.
the justice system did not do anything to protect me or the other women and kids, he is also suspected in the 93 murder of a 16 year old girl and a few others at that time but we cannot prove it, but i know he did the 16 year old girl.

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