The Billy Beane of Murder

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

Thomas Hargrove, a 61-year-old retired news reporter from Virginia, was always the numbers guy at his paper:

In 2004, Hargrove’s editors asked him to look into statistics surrounding prostitution. The only way to study that was to get a copy of the nation’s most comprehensive repository of criminal statistics: the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, or UCR. When Hargrove called up a copy of the report from the database library at the University of Missouri, attached to it was something he didn’t expect: the Supplementary Homicide Report. “I opened it up, and it was a record I’d never seen before,” he says. “Line by line, every murder that was reported to the FBI.”

[...]

Every year he downloaded and crunched the most recent data set. What really shocked him was the number of murder cases that had never been cleared. (In law enforcement, a case is cleared when a suspect is arrested, whatever the eventual outcome.) Hargrove counted 211,487, more than a third of the homicides recorded from 1980 to 2010. Why, he wondered, wasn’t the public up in arms about such a large number of unsolved murders?

To make matters worse, Hargrove saw that despite a generation’s worth of innovation in the science of crime fighting, including DNA analysis, the rate of cleared cases wasn’t increasing but decreasing — plummeting, even. The average homicide clearance rate in the 1960s was close to 90 percent; by 2010 it was solidly in the mid-’60s. It has fallen further since.

[...]

His innovation was to teach a computer to spot trends in unsolved murders, using publicly available information that no one, including anyone in law enforcement, had used before. This makes him, in a manner of speaking, the Billy Beane of murder. His work shines light on a question that’s gone unanswered for too long: Why, exactly, aren’t the police getting any better at solving murder? And how can we even dream of reversing any upticks in the homicide rate while so many killers remain out on the streets?

It took a few years for Hargrove’s editors at Scripps to agree to give him enough time to lose himself in the FBI’s homicide data. With help from a University of Missouri grad student, Hargrove first dumped the homicide report into statistics software in 2008. He spent months trying to develop an algorithm that would identify unsolved cases with enough commonalities to suggest the same murderer. Eventually, he decided to reverse-engineer the algorithm by testing his ideas against one well-known case, that of Gary Ridgway, the so-called Green River Killer, who confessed to killing 48 women over two decades in the Seattle area. Hargrove thought that if he could devise an algorithm that turned up the Green River Killer’s victims, he’d know he was on the right track.

“We found a hundred things that didn’t work,” he recalls. Finally, he settled on four characteristics for what’s called a cluster analysis: geography, sex, age group, and method of killing. For gender, he stuck with women, since they make up the vast majority of multiple-murder victims who aren’t connected to gang-related activity. When he used women between the ages of 20 and 50 — the cohort most commonly targeted by serial killers — the algorithm lit up like a slot machine. “It became clear that this thing was working,” he says. “In fact, it was working too well.”

The Green River Killer came up right away in this algorithm. That was good news. Hargrove’s algorithm also pulled up 77 unsolved murders in Los Angeles, which he learned were attributed to several different killers the police were pursuing (including the so-called Southside Slayer and, most recently, the Grim Sleeper), and 64 unsolved murders of women in Phoenix.

Then there was a second group of possible serial killers, those unrecognized by local police. “The whole point of the algorithm was to find the low-hanging fruit, the obvious clusters,” Hargrove says. “But there were dozens and dozens of them all over the country.”

In 2015, Scripps spun off the last of its newspapers, and Hargrove and the other print reporters lost their jobs. “The only guy who left with a skip was me,” he says. Hargrove, who was 59 at the time and had worked at the company for 37 years, qualified for a large severance and a nice pension, leaving him well-covered. Now he had enough time to go all in on his data project. He founded the Murder Accountability Project, or MAP, a tiny nonprofit seeking to make FBI murder data more widely and easily available.

Using Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, MAP has tried to chase down data from the many municipalities and counties that weren’t supplying their murder data to the FBI, out of bureaucratic laziness, a lack of manpower, or perhaps just rank incompetence. MAP has already assembled case details on 638,454 homicides from 1980 through 2014, including 23,219 cases that hadn’t been reported to the FBI. This is the most complete list of case-level details of U.S. murders available anywhere, and the group’s website has open-sourced all of it. Anyone with statistical analysis software, available for free online, can start looking, across jurisdictions, for serial killers. Anyone can compare convicted killers’ timelines against the timing of unsolved murders to determine if a connection is plausible. “You can call up your hometown and look and see if you see anything suspicious,” Hargrove says. “If you’re the father of a murdered daughter, you can call up her record, and you can see if there might be other records that match. We wanted to be able to crowdsource murder.”

Very, very bad at gun journalism

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

The mainstream media lobbies hard for gun control, but it is very, very bad at gun journalism:

It might be impossible ever to bridge the divide between the gun-control and gun-rights movements. But it’s impossible to start a dialogue when you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

Media stories in the wake of mass shootings typically feature a laundry list of mistakes that reflect their writers’ inexperience with guns and gun culture. Some of them are small but telling: conflating automatic and semi-automatic weapons, assault rifle and assault weapon, caliber and gauge—all demonstrating a general lack of familiarity with firearms. Some of them are bigger. Like calling for “common-sense gun control” and “universal background checks” after instances in which a shooter purchased a gun legally and passed background checks. Or focusing on mass shootings involving assault weapons—and thereby ignoring statistics that show that far more people die from handguns.

Schizophrenic Attackers

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Dr. Jeroen Ensink, 41, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was stabbed to death by Nigerian-born student Femi Nandap, who was a cannabis-abusing psychotic (in the strict, clinical sense):

Despite attacking a police officer in May last year and then being caught in possession of two kitchen knives, Nandap was twice given bail, before prosecutors decided to drop the charges against him.

Six days later he attacked and killed Dr Ensink, telling police who tried to intervene that he was the “black messiah”.

The current academic wisdom is that it would be impossible to prevent such murders without restricting large numbers of patients — say 35,000 of them:

Taking the very paper which provides the “35,000” figure for stranger murder, the figures for assault are shown below, and put things into a more manageable context. The annual rates for assault and violent crime are extraordinarily high, almost unbelievably so. Given the very high base rate, screening and monitoring are worth while.

Positive Predictive Value for the Detection of Adverse Events in Schizophrenia

As the event becomes more rare, the positive predictive value of the risk-categorization becomes lower, and the error rate higher, with progressively more people needing to be monitored to prevent one rare event. However, to prevent an assault would require that 3 schizophrenic patients be monitored, calling them in to check they are taking their medication, and presumably (hardest part) searching for them if they failed to show up. Easier would be to link up with the Police, so that if a patient is brought in for violent behaviour of any sort there can be coordinated management of the offender. Devoutly to be wished, often denied, but in the manageable range given the will and the resources. It would provide a good service for the patients, reducing suicide attempts, improving the quality of their lives, and reducing threats to others. It would certainly be worth testing it out in a London Borough, and checking that the above figures, derived from the best sources, hold up on further examination.

None of the media coverage goes into the question which arises out of normal curiosity: is psychotic behaviour more common among Africans in the UK? The picture above shows murderer and victim, and is an all too common pairing. The answer to the African question is: 6 to 9 times higher.

How Israel Catches Lone Wolves

Monday, January 30th, 2017

The recent Palestinian haba, or eruption, has involved “lone wolf” attackers:

In closed-door debates, proponents of a new and less muscular approach emphasized that most of the attackers came from the fringes of West Bank society: young people struggling with social marginalization, who had experienced repeated setbacks in their private lives or faced insurmountable personal or financial hardship. The collective profile of the assailants identified most as frustrated individuals who felt that their lives had reached a dead end, to the point that many sought salvation through martyrdom. Many of those captured during assaults told interrogators that they believed that death for the sake of jihad would reward them with the recognition they failed to obtain in life. It eventually dawned on Israeli analysts that many of the attackers who had maintained their own Facebook pages tended to replace their old pictures with new self-portraits just weeks, and sometimes only days, before setting out on an attack, so that mourning ceremonies could display photos of the “martyrs” that were appropriately current and flattering. In numerous cases, would-be assailants also wrote about their wish to sacrifice their lives in the form of short poems, Quranic verses, or tributes to other shahidis (martyrs).

Another important conclusion was that roughly half of the attackers came from only six localities in the West Bank: the suburb of Jebel Mukabar on the southern outskirts of East Jerusalem; Kalandiya refugee camp; the villages of Qabatya, Sair, and Yata; and a few neighborhoods in Hebron. Most other towns and villages did not join in. Each of these localities had, of course, its own unique economic conditions, social tensions, and complaints concerning nearby Israeli settlements and army presence. In general, Mount Hebron was the main springboard for attacks partly because pro-Hamas clans dominate the region at the expense of the Palestinian Authority.

On top of that, about half of all attempts occurred in and around the same six road junctions, from Jalameh border crossing in the north through Beit El, Tapuach, and Etzion in the center down to two intersections in Hebron. Young Palestinians repeatedly targeted Israeli soldiers at these junctions, many of them to avenge friends or family members who had been killed there in previous attempted attacks. This trend continued despite the IDF’s fortification of its positions around these junctions. Attackers knew that their chances of murdering an Israeli soldier in these well-defended places were slim, and the chances they would be killed or captured very high. Hence, choosing to carry out an attack in any of these junctions amounted to a suicide mission.

Although there were few attacks involving firearms during the Haba, these were often most serious. Israeli investigators discovered that some of these attacks were sophisticated operations by small “sacrifice squads” formed ad hoc. Members spent time on reconnaissance and planning. In most cases they were equipped with improvised Swedish Karl Gustav or old Port Said submachine guns manufactured in local metal workshops. A few of these squads might have been influenced by ISIS attacks in Europe, although none of the fifty or so people who participated in these attacks had any affiliation or contact with the terror group.

The Haba also brought about a sharp increase in what the Palestinians describe as “Popular Resistance”—riots and violent demonstrations in which Israeli soldiers and civilian passengers in cars or buses were attacked with stones, Molotov cocktails, and, less frequently, improvised explosive charges and pipe bombs. There were 4,656 such incidents in one year—from about September 2015 to August of 2016. This mode of unrest became routine after the Fatah movement’s Sixth Conference, held in Bethlehem in 2009, approved a program of unarmed confrontation. The number of such disturbances reached its peak in October 2015, yet unlike during the previous intifadas, public participation was limited. At most there would be few hundred demonstrators, but more often several dozen teenagers. The general public consistently stayed away. Gradually, the number of incidents declined, although a rate of around 100-150 incidents a month has been maintained through the winter of 2016.

There are six main components of Israel’s counter-Haba strategy that have emerged over time:

The first and arguably most important has been to reduce tension over the Temple Mount.

The second component of Israeli policy in dealing with the Haba concerned social media.

The third component has been selective retaliation.

The fourth component of the strategy focused on better cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

The fifth component of the strategy involved specifically going after the weapons.

Disrupting Hamas operations constitutes the sixth element of the strategy.

Old regime’s supporters unleash violence against Constitutionally elected new government

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Steve Sailer summarizes yesterday’s activities with the headline “Old regime’s supporters unleash violence against Constitutionally elected new government“:

Paul Kersey calls them “the shock troops of the Establishment.”

Remember the coordinated Fake News campaign in the media last winter about how violent Trump supporters were?

What % of all political violence in the United States over the last 12 months turned out to be more or less anti-Trump?

95% or 98%?

Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examine describes what he saw at the anti-Trump riot in DC:

After protestors got tired of chanting “love trumps hate,” they started chucking rocks at cops.

On Friday thousands of protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest the peaceful transition of power from one democratically-elected president to another. And it got ugly quickly.

Organized by the DisruptJ20 protest group, activists took aim at the alleged sexism and racism of the incoming administration. Practically speaking, that meant blocking security checkpoints, smashing windows, and torching at least one limousine outside the Washington Post building.

[...]

Families from flyover country were greeted to the nation’s capital with chants of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” When short of breath, protestors opted for the more succinct, “Fuck Trump!” One activist even decided to lecture a young Republican, screaming “don’t grow up and grab women by the pussies!” before his father covered his ears.

When words failed them though, protestors turned to rioting. Wearing black face masks, they smashed the windows of Starbucks, Bank of America, and a Bobby Van’s steakhouse a few blocks from Capitol Hill. Private business didn’t suffer all the damage, though. Suddenly enemies of public transport, liberal rioters trashed at least one bus stop—an indicator of the aimlessness of the whole thing.

[...]

So far, they seem like the JV team to the rioters that trashed Ferguson and Baltimore. Most didn’t know whether to take selfie or retreat in front of a police line. A pile of flaming trashcans served as more of a prop for Instagram than a barricade for police.

How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

The BBC naively explains how Japan has almost eradicated gun crime:

Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?

If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.

There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too — and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.

That’s not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.

The law restricts the number of gun shops. In most of Japan’s 40 or so prefectures there can be no more than three, and you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.

Police must be notified where the gun and the ammunition are stored — and they must be stored separately under lock and key. Police will also inspect guns once a year. And after three years your licence runs out, at which point you have to attend the course and pass the tests again.

This helps explain why mass shootings in Japan are extremely rare. When mass killings occur, the killer most often wields a knife.

It’s quite reassuring that mass-killers there use other tools.

It’s also impressive how Japan’s gun-control laws keep Japanese-Americans from committing gun crimes. (Some estimates place Japanese-American gun crime rates even lower than the Japanese rate.)

How to Predict Gentrification

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Everyone has theories for why well-educated professionals are moving back into cities:

Perhaps their living preferences have shifted. Or the demands of the labor market have, and young adults with less leisure time are loath to waste it commuting. Maybe the tendency to postpone marriage and children has made city living more alluring. Or the benefits of cities themselves have improved.

“There are all sorts of potential other amenities, whether it’s cafes, restaurants, bars, nicer parks, better schools,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University.

“But a huge piece of it,” she said, “I think is crime.”

New research that she has conducted alongside Keren Mertens Horn, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and Davin Reed, a doctoral student at N.Y.U., finds that when violent crime falls sharply, wealthier and educated people are more likely to move into lower-income and predominantly minority urban neighborhoods.

Their working paper suggests that just as rising crime can drive people out of cities, falling crime has a comparable effect, spurring gentrification.

I love the surprised tone.

Kidnapping for ransom works like a market

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Kidnapping is hard — because of problems of trust, problems of bargaining, and problems of execution — but there is a well-organized market for hostages:

The first principle that insurers adopt is that safe retrieval of hostages is paramount. The second guiding principle is that kidnapping cannot become too wildly profitable, for fear of further destabilization. In the language of economists, there must be no “supernormal profits.” If victims’ representatives quickly offer large ransoms, this information spreads like wildfire and triggers kidnapping booms. A good example is Somalia, where a few premium ransoms led to an explosion of piracy that could only be stopped by a costly military intervention.

Insurers have therefore created institutions to make sure that ransom offers meet kidnapper expectations and produce safe releases but that do not upset local criminal markets. Insured parties obtain immediate, free access to highly experienced crisis-response consultants in the event of a kidnapping. These consultants find out whether the person demanding the ransom actually holds a live hostage to bargain over, they advise on the appropriate negotiation strategy, and they reassure families when they inevitably receive dire threats of violence.

Because insurers can communicate outcomes confidentially, they can stabilize ransoms — as well as discipline rogue kidnappers. One kidnapper summarized this perception in the criminal community as “No one negotiates with a kidnapper who has a reputation for blowing his victims’ brains out.” Crisis responders also manage the ransom drop, removing a further obstacle to a successful conclusion. About 98 percent of insured criminal kidnapping victims are safely retrieved.

Of course, this “protocol” for ransom negotiations is costly. Tough bargaining takes time, imposing huge psychological costs on negotiators and on the victim’s family and tying up productive resources in firms. Experienced consultants are paid a substantial daily fee. It is very tempting to conclude negotiations early. Most of the cost of quick ransoms that are bigger than they ought to be is borne by future victims and their insurers, not the current victim’s stakeholders. An effective governance regime for kidnapping resolution therefore requires rules to prevent anyone’s taking shortcuts.

It would be impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an insurer’s crisis responder deliberately cuts corners because ransoms are naturally variable. This makes it impossible for insurers to formally contract with each other and punish those who “overpay” kidnappers.

Insurers resolve this through an ingenious market structure. All kidnapping insurance is either written or reinsured at Lloyd’s of London. Within the Lloyd’s market, there are about 20 firms (or “syndicates”) competing for business. They all conduct resolutions according to clear rules. The Lloyd’s Corp. can exclude any syndicate that deviates from the established protocol and imposes costs on others. Outsiders do not have the necessary information to price kidnapping insurance correctly: Victims are very tight-lipped about their experiences to avoid attracting further criminal attention.

The private governance regime for resolving criminal kidnappings generally delivers low and stable ransoms and predictable numbers of kidnappings. Most kidnappings can be resolved for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. This makes profitable kidnapping insurance possible. When the protocol fails, insurers sustain losses and must innovate to regain control.

The outcomes of privately governed “criminal” kidnappings (where private firms or individuals pay the ransoms) contrast starkly with those of “terrorist” kidnappings (where governments are asked to pay ransoms or to make concessions). Here, insurers are prevented by law from ordering the market, leaving governments in the firing line.

Governments struggle to contain ransoms, and they often end up making concessions to terrorists despite their public “no negotiation” commitments. Government negotiators have no obvious budget constraints. They often prioritize quick settlements over containing ransoms. Finally, there is no international regime for preventing spillovers to subsequent negotiations. Citizens of nations who refuse to negotiate with terrorists are often tortured or killed to raise the pressure in parallel negotiations. Multimillion dollar ransoms in terrorist cases are therefore not really surprising — and such settlements reliably trigger new kidnappings.

The Ankara Assassination looks like Bertolucci’s “The Conformist”

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Images from the Ankara assassination look like they come from an avant-garde 1970s film, Steve Sailer notes — namely Bertolucci’s The Conformist:

The extraordinarily cinematic-looking assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey today in an Ankara art gallery by a young Turkish policeman is the latest in a long series of events I routinely characterize as “Byzantine” because I have no idea what’s really going on, but it makes me sound knowing.

Ankara Assassination

I may have to rent The Conformist from Amazon.

Police Body Cameras Don’t Reduce Use of Force

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Police body cameras don’t reduce use of force, according to newer studies out of Milwaukee and Spokane.

Fast Facts About the FBI’s New Hate-Crime Report

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

The FBI just released new information on hate crimes — that occurred in America last year:

The new report covers incidents that occurred in 2015. This seems like the first important fact to note, since some people have already been trying to pass the data off as a response to Donald Trump’s election as president. That’s obviously impossible. Trump did start his campaign seriously in the summer of 2015, which leaves open the possibility for his influence on bias-based crimes last year. But other influential events of 2015 include major Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris and Turkey; the mass shooting carried out by ISIS supporters in San Bernardino, California; the rising refugee crisis in Europe; an array of “officer involved shootings,” anti-police brutality protests, and Black Lives Matter activism within the U.S.; and the transgender bathroom issue breaking into the mainstream media/political scene for the first time, to name a few. Any serious explanation for a shift in violence against various minorities last year must take all of that (and many other factors) into account, so it’s disappointing to see people immediately leap to pin new data to “Trumpism.” One needn’t feel love for Trump and his fan club to find any explanation that starts and stops with them woefully lacking, partisan, and, to the extent that it clouds out analysis of other factors, possibly destructive.

[...]

The first FBI hate-crime statistics included reporting data from just 11 states. Since 1990, the number of law-enforcement agencies participating in the FBI’s hate-crime reporting program has grown steadily. This means that in terms of sheer number of incidents, part (or perhaps all) of incident increases can be attributed to an increase in the number of jurisdictions and agencies reporting hate-crime data to the FBI.

Gun Control Is Tax-Subsidized Marketing for Illegal Submachine Guns

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Gun control Is tax-subsidized marketing for illegal submachine guns, J.D. Tuccille notes, because submachine guns are terribly easy to make:

“DIY submachine guns are popping up across the West Bank,” the Washington Post reported recently in a piece about a weapon that has repeatedly played a role in Palestinian attacks upon Israelis. The guns are of a common type referred to as the “Carlo,” based on the Swedish Carl Gustav M/45, which dates to the World War 2 era. The article added that hundreds of the submachine guns have been confiscated over the past year, and raids staged on 35 mechanics’ shops that were cranking them out.

“The Carlo has remained so popular because of how little machinery and technical know-how is required to produce it,” a Times of Israel story noted earlier this year. “A drill press, some welding equipment and blueprints from the internet are all that’s needed to create one of these potentially devastating weapons.” The story lamented that “it’s nearly impossible to prevent its production.”

Ironically, Israelis themselves relied on homemade submachine guns during their War of Independence. In their case, they knocked off copies of the British-designed Sten gun and fed them with ammunition manufactured in a clandestine factory beneath a laundry. Similarly to the weapon copied by West Bank mechanics, “the Sten used simple stamped metal components and minor welding, which required minimal machining and manufacturing,” according to Wikipedia.

That simplicity is a feature of many simple, sheet-metal submachine guns dating to the war era. Desperate to satisfy the need to produce massive numbers of guns in short order, designers crafted weapons that could be made in any number of existing shops using general-purpose machinery. Long before 3D printers and CNC milling machines drove headlines about DIY firearms, those characteristics made such weapons natural choices for various insurgencies battling governments in regions across the world.

Because they’re so easy to produce, submachine guns also became a natural go-to for non-political manufacture in countries that have strict gun control regimes. Brazil seems to be an especially fertile source for homemade automatic weapons. There’s an online cottage industry in tracking Brazilian police announcements of gun confiscations and posting photos of the creative copies of commercially produced weapons—as well as weirdly innovative original designs.

Unsurprisingly, Brazil has a thriving market for Sten guns and the like made in car repair shops because it has a severely constrained legal market for firearms. Brazilians have to jump through hoops to get government permission to purchase guns, and even if they satisfy all requirements, police can say “no” on a whim. That leaves many residents of the country without a legal means to protect themselves from the country’s extremely busy criminal class (60,000 murders every year, according to some estimates). Those criminals are, of course, well-armed courtesy of that black market described above.

Some of the country’s lawmakers want to make it less-daunting to legally own the means of self-defense. But for now guns remain easily available only to those willing to break the law, which leaves opportunity for DIY manufacturers.

Australia also has famously restrictive gun laws of such exquisite legislative perfection that they bear emulation, according to leading presidential contender Hillary Clinton. Well, except that the Australian government is a tad upset about gun smuggling by outlaw gangs and the hundreds of thousands of illegal firearms in circulation. Officials plan yet another amnesty for owners to surrender the illegal weapons, although Sydney University gun policy analyst Philip Alpers told ABC News that he expects it to produce only “rubbish guns” that nobody values.

Because, honestly, if you’ve gone through the trouble and expense of purchasing one of the “perfectly constructed MAC 10 machine guns” manufactured by a jeweler turned underground arms dealer, why would you surrender it?

Like Brazil, diversity is characteristic of Australia’s illegal arms makers, who also produce submachine guns inspired by the late Philip Luty, a Briton who created designs intended for home manufacture (he was imprisoned for his troubles, but his plans are widely available). Ten percent or more of illegal guns seized by Australian police are produced by underground armorers—with powerful and easily made submachine guns featuring prominently among them.

Australia is a much safer country than Brazil, and has a lower homicide rate than the United States. But at least one academic assessment has concluded that the crime rate seems to fluctuate independently of gun ownership. That new gun amnesty is motivated not just by a black market, but by a spike in crime including murders.

Collateral Alley Scene

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

When I was first learning to shoot, my defensive shooting instructor showed us the alley scene from Collateral. Here Larry Vickers takes us through it:

Early Policing

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

In the early colonies policing took two forms:

The watch system was composed of community volunteers whose primary duty was to warn of impending danger. Boston created a night watch in 1636, New York in 1658 and Philadelphia in 1700. The night watch was not a particularly effective crime control device. Watchmen often slept or drank on duty. While the watch was theoretically voluntary, many “volunteers” were simply attempting to evade military service, were conscript forced into service by their town, or were performing watch duties as a form of punishment. Philadelphia created the first day watch in 1833 and New York instituted a day watch in 1844 as a supplement to its new municipal police force (Gaines, Kappeler, and Vaughn 1999).

Augmenting the watch system was a system of constables, official law enforcement officers, usually paid by the fee system for warrants they served. Constables had a variety of non-law enforcement functions to perform as well, including serving as land surveyors and verifying the accuracy of weights and measures. In many cities constables were given the responsibility of supervising the activities of the night watch.

These informal modalities of policing continued well after the American Revolution. It was not until the 1830s that the idea of a centralized municipal police department first emerged in the United States. In 1838, the city of Boston established the first American police force, followed by New York City in 1845, Albany, NY and Chicago in 1851, New Orleans and Cincinnati in 1853, Philadelphia in 1855, and Newark, NJ and Baltimore in 1857 (Harring 1983, Lundman 1980; Lynch 1984). By the 1880s all major U.S. cities had municipal police forces in place.

These “modern police” organizations shared similar characteristics: (1) they were publicly supported and bureaucratic in form; (2) police officers were full-time employees, not community volunteers or case-by-case fee retainers; (3) departments had permanent and fixed rules and procedures, and employment as a police officers was continuous; (4) police departments were accountable to a central governmental authority (Lundman 1980).

[...]

The key question, of course, is what was it about the United States in the 1830s that necessitated the development of local, centralized, bureaucratic police forces? One answer is that cities were growing. The United States was no longer a collection of small cities and rural hamlets. Urbanization was occurring at an ever-quickening pace and old informal watch and constable system was no longer adequate to control disorder. Anecdotal accounts suggest increasing crime and vice in urban centers. Mob violence, particularly violence directed at immigrants and African Americans by white youths, occurred with some frequency. Public disorder, mostly public drunkenness and sometimes prostitution, was more visible and less easily controlled in growing urban centers than it had been rural villages (Walker 1996).

Crossroads Center Mall Attack Video

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

If you watch the surveillance camera video from the Crossroads Center Mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, you can learn some lessons:

People DO use the overhand stab in knife attacks. The attacker Dahir Adan certainly did in the initial attack captured in the security video. People instinctively understand that they can strike powerful blows to the vulnerable regions of the upper body using the over hand stab, holding the knife in the ice pick grip. This technique allows the knifer to sink the blade deep into the chest, back, neck and head. At the same time most people recognize that if they launch a frontal assault with the downward stab they are telegraphing their attack such that even untrained people can do much to block the thrust. A cursory study of knife assaults indicates that most downward stab attacks are made from the side and rear for that reason. The attacker will frequently stabilize the victim, that is hold on to him in some fashion to unbalance him and prevent him from evading or warding off the blows. As was the case here. Apparently Adan wanted to stab as many people as he could, so he didn’t spend too much time on any one victim. Just delivering a few stabs and then moving on. This of course clearly devolved to the benefit of the stabbing victims since all survived.

The Crossroads Center Mall is a posted “gun free” zone. Meaning that under state law no civilian concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit holders are allowed to carry their guns on the premises at the behest of the owners and management of the mall. Jason Falconer, the good guy with a gun who stopped the attacks, is a part-time cop from another jurisdiction. He chose to ignore the gun free zone signs and carried his gun into the mall anyway.

[...]

In a bizarre turn of events, after being shot several times, Adan advanced on Falconer by walking backwards. Actually it is not uncommon for people being shot to reflexively turn their back to the shooter in a vain effort to protect their vitals. Since action time beats reaction time the shooter will be unable to stop firing when his assailant first shows his back. Then the unfortunate cop or armed citizen will be left with the difficult task of explaining why he shot his assailant in the back.

Falconer moves well, but he ends up tripping while retreating from the charging knifeman.