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.

Black Lies Matter

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

The Black Lives Matter movement is based on a lie, Heather MacDonald argues:

Last year, the police shot 990 people, the vast majority armed or violently resisting arrest, according to the Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings. Whites made up 49.9 percent of those victims, blacks, 26 percent. That proportion of black victims is lower than what the black violent crime rate would predict.

Blacks constituted 62 percent of all robbery defendants in America’s 75 largest counties in 2009, 57 percent of all murder defendants and 45 percent of all assault defendants, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, even though blacks comprise only 15 percent of the population in those counties.

In New York City, where blacks make up 23 percent of the city’s population, blacks commit three-quarters of all shootings and 70 percent of all robberies, according to victims and witnesses in their reports to the New York Police Department. Whites, by contrast, commit less than 2 percent of all shootings and 4 percent of all robberies, though they are nearly 34 percent of the city’s population.

In Chicago, 80 percent of all known murder suspects were black in 2015, as were 80 percent of all known nonfatal shooting suspects, though they are a little less than a third of the population. Whites made up 0.9 percent of known murder suspects in Chicago in 2015 and 1.4 percent of known nonfatal shooting suspects, though they are about a third of the city’s residents.

Such racially skewed crime ratios are repeated in virtually all American metropolises. They mean that when officers are called to the scene of a drive-by shooting or an armed robbery, they will overwhelmingly be summoned to minority neighborhoods, looking for minority suspects in the aid of minority victims.

Gang shootings occur almost exclusively in minority areas. Police use of force is most likely in confrontations with violent and resisting criminals, and those confrontations happen disproportionately in minority communities.

You would never know it from the activists, but police shootings are responsible for a lower percentage of black homicide deaths than white and Hispanic homicide deaths. Twelve percent of all whites and Hispanics who die of homicide are killed by police officers, compared to 4 percent of black homicide victims.

That disparity is driven by the greatly elevated rates of criminal victimization in the black community. More blacks die each year from homicide, more than 6,000, than homicide victims of all other races combined. Their killers are not the police, and not whites, but other blacks. In Chicago this year through Aug. 30, 2,870 people, mostly black, were shot.

If you believed the Black Lives Matter narrative, you would assume that the assailants of those black victims were in large part cops. In fact, the police shot 17 people, most of whom were threatening lethal force, accounting for 0.6 percent of the total.

Gun-related murders of officers are up 52 percent this year through Aug. 30 compared to last year.

Police critics have never answered the question of what they think non-biased policing data should look like, in light of the vast differences in rates of criminal offending. Blacks commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. Black males between the ages of 14-17 commit gun homicide at nearly 10 times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined.

Should police stops, arrests and those rare instances of police shootings nevertheless mirror population ratios, rather than crime ratios?

Likely Radicalized

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Jason Falconer — who works part time for the Avon, Minn., police department and owns a business called Tactical Advantage — won’t face charges for shooting the “radicalized” Somali knife-attacker at a Minnesota mall:

It appears that Adan, who worked as a security guard at another business and who was wearing his uniform, appeared to have been radicalized and that the attack was premeditated, said Richard T. Thornton, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Minneapolis Division.


During a news conference on Thursday, officials showed multiple videos of the attack. The videos showed Mr. Falconer’s pursuit of the suspect and Adan’s efforts to continue the attack after he had been shot multiple times.

The city received 95 calls to 911 in the incident, which injured 10 people, including a pregnant woman stabbed in the parking lot, officials said.

During the incident, Adan asked several of the victims, including Mr. Falconer, whether they were Muslim, officials said.

Ten bullets were shot in all, and six were found in Adan’s body.

Ms. Kendall described several of the stabbings, including a father and son stabbed outside an electronics store. Adan tried to enter a Target and a candy store, both of which had already closed their doors because of the commotion.

She said Mr. Falconer had finished shopping at Bath & Body Works when he heard the commotion and screams in the hallway. As he left the store, he came across Adan, who asked Mr. Falconer if he was Muslim.

Mr. Falconer said no, and Adan turned away from him, the prosecutor said. Mr. Falconer then noticed that Adan had two steak knives in his hands. Mr. Falconer drew his weapon, identified himself as a police officer and ordered Adan to stop.

Instead, Adan ran away toward Macy’s, and Mr. Falconer chased after him, Ms. Kendall said.

Inside Macy’s, Adan ducked behind a clothing rack and then charged at the officer, who fired several shots.

Adan went down, got up and continued to try to attack the officer, first running straight ahead, but eventually turning his back to the bullets, but continuing toward the officer, the prosecutor said.

Witnesses were confused by the sight of Mr. Falconer in plain clothes shooting at the suspect in a security-guard uniform, so Mr. Falconer pulled out his badge, Ms. Kendall said.

When Adan was nearly incapacitated, he attempted to try to get up again, eventually crawling toward the officer and trying to stand up on a display rack.

When Adan finally stopped moving, Mr. Falconer stood and waited for police, who arrived within four minutes, the prosecutor said.

Mr. Thornton, the FBI special agent, said that Adan returned home from work at around 3 p.m. that day but didn’t take off his uniform or take a nap, as he usually did. He told his family he had work to do, even though he wasn’t expected back at work until 10 p.m., Mr. Thornton said. The attack took place around 8 p.m.

Adan stopped by a convenience store shortly before 7 p.m. that evening. When a worker said, “See you later,” Adan replied: ”You won’t be seeing me again.”

Any competitive shooters out there must be wondering how he hit just six out of ten times. Also, what was he shooting? And did he have more rounds?

Grittier and without the Hooks

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Forrest Stuart wanted to interview Chicago “youth” about the police, but what they wanted to talk about was the gang scene:

There are hundreds of gangs in Chicago these days, a splintering that occurred in the wake of the collapse of the traditional “supergangs” like the Black Disciples and Vice Lords in the ’90s. As dangerous as their predecessors, they operate as block-level factions, making the city a complicated patchwork of warring territories. In a relatively recent phenomenon, many of these gangs produce drill music — a Chicago-born low-fi version of gangsta rap, full of hyperviolent boasts and taunts. (Think NWA, but grittier and without the hooks.)

By keeping their ears open, these kids I was interviewing can quickly figure out whose territory they are in. If they are walking through a neighborhood and hear a certain kind of drill coming from a passing car or a phone speaker, they know that corner belongs to the gang Diddy Grove. If they’re in Diddy Grove territory and notice songs by O-Block, that tells them Diddy Grove and O-Block are likely cliqued up.


As I’d soon find out, CBE makes three kinds of videos. In one, they talk about nameless, faceless rivals, or haters. In another, they specifically target a rival gang with lyrics like “So-and-so’s a bitch” or “So-and-so’s a snitch.” And then there’s an in-between kind, which to an outsider sounds like generic disses but is actually very targeted, with the rapper flashing a rival gang’s hand signs upside down. This was that kind of video.

The shoot took place all over the Lincoln Homes — in the stairwell, in the courtyard. And in nearly every shot, the guys were rolling blunts, smoking, and drinking. A crowd of onlookers soon grew. Most of them were kids who knew every lyric to Blaze’s song. CBE has this real nationalistic quality for people living in the Lincoln Homes. They look at the members as heroes.

It’s surprising how much strategy goes into the making and posting of these videos on YouTube and SoundCloud. CBE members are constantly considering how to get the most views. (At least one of their videos has exceeded five million.) The thinking is that if a video pulls enough, record labels will start calling. Sometimes the guys will record a video but wait to release it until a rival gang member — preferably one they’ve called out — is shot, so that it seems like CBE is taking credit. It’s all about convincing viewers that CBE really does the violent stuff that they rap about — and often they do.

Their model is inspired by the local patron saint of drill rap, Chief Keef, who successfully leveraged the persona of a black superpredator. The more he portrayed himself as a reckless, gun-toting, ruthless murderer, the more attention he got. Eventually, Interscope Records signed him to a $6 million deal and off he went to Los Angeles. Hardly a day goes by without someone from CBE mentioning Keef.


As one of the other CBE rappers would always say, “You know, white people, Mexicans, bitches, those people don’t live the life, but they love hearing about it. People want the Chiraq stuff. They want a superthug ghetto man, and I’m giving that to them. I’m just playing my role.”

More than an Off-Duty Police Officer

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

The “off-duty police officer” who stopped the jihadi knife attack in Minnesota was more than an off-duty police officer:

He owns a firing range and firearms training facility called Tactical Advantage. He’s considered an expert in firearms training and education and has helped teach classes on law enforcement skills at St. Cloud State University for nine years, his company website says.
He’s a member of the United States Practical Shooters Association and has won medals in various shooting competitions.

Yeah, he’s a USPSA shooter. I don’t want to say he’s living the dream, but…

Open Prisons

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Norway’s open prisons sound comically Scandinavian, but they work — there:

Wiggo was right; it did look like summer camp. Mottled leaves fell on cyclers ? yes, cycling prisoners ? and a horse-and-carriage cantered by. Gingerbread houses dotted the landscape; they were dull yellow, with green trim and red roofs. I spied sheep and cows but no fence or barbed wire.

Bastoy is an open prison, a concept born in Finland during the 1930s and now part of the norm throughout Scandinavia, where prisoners can sometimes keep their jobs on the outside while serving time, commuting daily. Thirty percent of Norway’s prisons are open, and Bastoy, a notorious reformatory for boys converted in 1982 to a prison, is considered the crown jewel of them all.


“I started skeptical. That changed quickly. More prisons should be open ? almost all should be. We take as many as we can here, but there isn’t room for everyone.” Prisoners from around the country can apply to move to an open prison like Bastoy when they’re within three years of release. The island is home to about 115 men overseen by over 70 staff members, and there is a waiting list of about 30.

“There’s a perception that, ‘Oh, this is the lightweight prison; you just take the nice guys for the summer-camp prison.’ But in fact, no. Our guys are into, pardon my French, some heavy shit. Drugs and violence. And the truth is, some have been problematic in other prisons but then they come here, and we find them easy. We say, ‘Is that the same guy you called difficult?’ It’s really very simple: Treat people like dirt, and they will be dirt. Treat them like human beings, and they will act like human beings.”


“It’s not about running a prison but running an island,” Tom explained. “Agriculture is a big part of our philosophy. We are humane, ecological. Animals have a social function too, teaching empathy. Everyone works the land.”

This is a nature reserve, growing about 25 percent of its food. Most vehicles are electric, and everything is recycled.

Learning from Attica

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Adam Gopnik looks back at the Attica prison riot of 1971:

What’s striking about the uprising is not the collisions of intractable ideological positions but, rather, the sheer confusion, missed opportunities, personal squabbles, and absurd procedural wrangles that governed it. The saddest irony is that the New York State Commissioner of Corrections, Russell Oswald, though later treated as one of the villains of the episode, was largely responsible for extending the occupation and allowing the prisoners the media megaphone that makes their voices still heard today. Oswald is a kind of caricature of the sixties liberal who infuriated conservatives (and often other liberals), someone so determined to do good that he can’t see past his own folly. He was a committed prison reformer — shortly after accepting the job, he had written a memo to Governor Rockefeller saying that having men locked “twelve or more hours a day in their cells is unacceptable to them and me.” And yet he managed, in four days, to enrage the inmates, exasperate his colleagues, and, probably, prevent the forces of order from taking back the prison when it still could have been done in a more or less orderly way. Since any imaginable modern state in any imaginable circumstance was always going to feel duty-bound to retake a prison after a mutiny, a forcible reconquest needed to be done either quickly or not at all: had it happened the next morning, when state troopers stood ready and the prisoners hadn’t yet dug in, it might have been much less violent. Trying to placate everyone, he only exacerbated everything.


Negotiations tend to be remarkably consistent in form, whether the subject is Iranian nukes or prisoners’ rights. Both sides arrive with obviously ridiculous demands; the act of meeting marks the rejection of those demands but also shows that there is enough good will for a deal to be made; the shape of the agreement swiftly appears; and then, often, the two sides get trapped in tiny details pointing to the tribal instincts that brought the conflict on in the first place. Certainly the negotiations at Attica took this shape.


The uprising at Attica was, in the not very long run, one of the things that stopped prison reform dead in its tracks.


In broadly democratic countries, violence frightens the “masses” as they really are—i.e., the majority of citizens—much faster than reformers can persuade them to change. Nonviolent episodes of protest are extraordinarily efficient in creating social change in democratic states; violent episodes undo the good work of change with astonishing rapidity. As the Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow has shown, in an important new empirical study, the spectacle of urban violence probably did get Richard Nixon elected. (“In public opinion polls between 1950 and 1980, a majority of subjects identified ‘civil rights’ as the most important problem facing America at the same time that nonviolent black protest activity peaked,” he observes, “and, likewise, responded with ‘law and order’ when black-led violent protests were most active.”)


Evil exists. Prisons, punishment, segregation, exile: even the most enlightened state needs some way of sorting the truly dangerous from the sadly criminal and the sadly criminal from the merely unlucky. I eventually discovered that the erudite inmate who arraigned me for not attending to my Foucault had committed the most horrible crime of which I ever hope to hear. (In the midst of a custody battle with his estranged wife, he called her on the phone, had her hold the line, and then murdered their two daughters while she listened and they pleaded.) No sane society can survive if the state, however fair, however free, cannot enforce order and hold a monopoly on legitimate violence.

Stop trouble before it starts

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Riots might not begin at all if authorities could overwhelm “action nodes” as they developed:

Experience has shown that the National Guard is not well adapted to the mission of early containment of a riot. It takes the Guard several days to get into action because when it is called, it is not merely foot soldiers that are summoned but their entire apparatus of logistics and command that must be mobilized as well. Moreover even the hint that authorities are thinking about calling out the National Guard could be seen as a provocative acknowledgement of a riot’s incipiency. Public appeals that the Guard be summoned may therefore amount to a sort of focal incident and do almost as much to choreograph the beginning of a riot as to deter its occurrence. Of course once it gets into action the Guard does seem to pacify full-blown riots fairly swiftly. This fact suggests that sheer numbers of anti-riot personnel may be more important than tactics, training or other variables in quietening civil unrest.

For this reason cities might well consider the benefits of using a civilian auxiliary to reinforce and supplement the police force. Such a force could be deployed rapidly and demobilized just as fast once the trouble had died down because its command infrastructure, that of the municipal police, is always up and running. Of course it is out of the question for police departments permanently to maintain as many full-time officers as might be required by peak load demand. An analogy might be drawn to volunteer fire fighters, who receive training, though far less than their full-time professional counterparts, to enable them to meet contingencies too remote to justify commissioning full-time personnel. The original idea of the militia, as envisioned by the drafters of the United States Constitution, reflected something of the notion that ordinary citizens bore the final responsibility for the security of the communities in which they lived (Dowlut 1983: 93). When not burdened with a command and control superstructure but simply used to supplement law enforcement resources already in place, a modem equivalent to the militia might well serve to stop trouble before it started.

Brutality can terminate riots promptly

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Once it gets started, rioting is difficult to stop by authorities as constrained as American police forces are:

Of course authorities prepared to resort to brutality can terminate riots promptly. Buford gives the example of how the Sardinian police militia smothered a soccer riot during the 1990 World Cup matches. Hundreds of rowdy English soccer fans had flown in on chartered planes, and were determined to find trouble. The police did not try to cover every action node at once; this would have left them outnumbered everywhere. Instead, following textbook military strategy, they massed forces and surrounded first one, then another group of hooligans inglisi, rendering each in turn hors de combat by beating them senseless with truncheons. Few of the Englishmen actually had to be arrested (which would have been very time-consuming for the police). Nevertheless, because they were not allowed to innocently transpire through police lines to re-appear at some less well-defended action node, the riot soon collapsed.

The Japanese Zoning System

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Alex Tabarrok explains the Japanese zoning system:

Japan has 12 basic zones, far fewer than is typical in an American city. The zones can be ordered in terms of nuisance or potential externality from low-rise residential to high-rise residential to commercial zone on through to light industrial and industrial. But, and this is key, in the US zones tend to be exclusive but in Japan the zones limit the maximum nuisance in a zone. So, for example, a factory can’t be built in a residential neighborhood but housing can be built in a light industrial zone.


In addition, residential means residential without discrimination as to the type or form of resident.

On that last point, one commenter notes that the Japanese do not have to worry about crime, and Steve Sailer added that “Americans have replaced discrimination by race with discrimination by cost, which works pretty well, but, of course, it’s very expensive.”

Schelling Incidents and Schelling Points

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Any of several major intersections, parks, or schoolyards may have seemed the natural place for a large number of riot-disposed people to gather following the acquittals in People v. Powell (the original Rodney King beating case) — which amounted to a Schelling incident, at least in part because it had been advertised as such for weeks by TV and newspaper accounts of the trial:

One can hardly doubt that many residents of South-Central bent on making trouble arrived at places they expected to be “focal” only to find them largely deserted. But Schelling’s work implies that a substantial number of others would have guessed right — would have gone to a major intersection, Korean strip-mall parking lot, or other public space and found the crowd they had expected to find nearing its critical mass — waiting for some of the outliers from non-viable focal points to find their way to more promising locations.

But here is a problem. Those who selected a non-viable focal point — in other words, those who guessed wrong — would now have to find out where everyone else went in order to join them. How did they get this information? Los Angeles’ television stations’ aggressive news coverage of the disturbance from its very beginning seems to have played a key role. Within minutes after the verdicts were announced in Powell, minicam crews were doing news “live from the scene,” letting everyone in town know where the trouble was. Innocents thus learned what neighborhoods to avoid; but non-innocents, who wanted to take part in the looting, also found out where to go.

Although inadvertently, the stations lowered the search costs for aspiring rioters. Without TV, other techniques would surely have been used by people hying to find out where to go in order to loot and burn with little fear of arrest. But the broadcast media are by far the best way to get accurate information to many people at once. Especially in spread-out places like Los Angeles, rioting would be less likely to occur if information about the location of viable focal points were harder to come by.


Understanding Riots

Friday, August 26th, 2016

David D. Haddock and Daniel D. Poisby wrote Understanding Riots after a previous breakdown in law and order:

After the Los Angeles riot in spring of 1992, almost every pundit in the country took a turn at explaining why riots occur. The conventional wisdom on the subject went something like this: certain dramatic events such as political assassinations or unpopular jury verdicts crystalize riots from social rage. So to understand riots, one must understand the causes of social rage, usually said to be racism, poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and why people who experience this rage manage it in such a destructive manner. The usual suspects include breakdown of the family, television, and a generalized cultural disorientation.

All of these explanations have some truth in them, but are evidently incomplete. First, they explain too much. The predisposing social conditions are with us all the time, yet riots are episodic. Second, they explain too little. Many mob actions, like European soccer riots or the increasingly predictable civil meltdowns in the home cities of National Basketball Association champions, are triggered by good news, and not obviously related to social injustice or existential anomie. Indeed, during the Los Angeles riots, anyone with a TV set could see that jubilation rather than fury best characterized the mood of the people in the streets. It is hard to credit that these exhilarated looters with their new VCR’s and cameras were protesting the juiy system, the state of race relations in Southern California, or anything else. They were, in fact, having a party. Moreover, many of those who risked life and limb opposing the more outrageous excesses of the rioters were themselves poor, unemployed, and victims of racism.

Conversely, a crowd is not an incipient riot merely because it assembles a great many people with the predisposing demographic characteristics. For example, every Fourth of July in Chicago’s Grant Park there is a fireworks display that usually attracts about a million spectators. In certain parts of the grounds, people are packed together like sardines, so that individuals substantially lose their ability to decide where to go. One goes where the crowd goes. Going against it is impossible, and even leaving it (unless one is near the edge) may be difficult. Some people dislike the experience, but whatever its discomforts, the Fourth of July crowd at Grant Park is not a riot in the making. The crowd is big, it is loud, it is unmanageable, it is filled with people who have suffered from racial discrimination and economic deprivation, it has, in aggregate, drunk a lot of beer (which is legally for sale at dozens of kiosks at the event); but it is only a crowd, not an incipient riot.

Day in and day out in any big city, police blotters will reflect the existence of a fairly steady background supply of theft, mugging, arson, and homicide. But this jumble of criminal mischief does not amount to a “riot”; riots are the coordinated acts of many people. If they are coordinated, who coordinates them? Authorities looking for ways to explain why trouble has broken out on their watch sometimes ascribe exaggerated organizational. powers to “outside agitators.” While, as we explain, there is definitely a leadership niche in the ecology of a mob, it seems to become important only after the crowd has assembled. Riots are not, as a rule, plotted and scripted affairs.

How Many Americans Have a Police Record?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Approximately 30% of American adults have an arrest record.

Gun Moll

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Have you ever wondered where the term gun moll came from?

A gun moll (aka gangster moll) is the female companion of a male professional criminal. In some contexts, ‘gun moll’ more specifically suggests that the woman handles a firearm.

When the term came into usage in the first decade of the 20th century, “gun” was not derived from the firearm, but from the Yiddish word meaning “thief,” variously transliterated into English as ganefthe, gonif, goniff, or ganof, itself derived from Hebrew “Ganav”. However, this distinction gradually disappeared, especially when such women became associated with gangsters noted for their frequent use of guns.

“Moll” derives from “Molly”, used as a euphemism for “whore” or “prostitute” and attested at least since 17th century England.

In the U.S., the term has mostly been applied to a woman associating with an American gangster of the 1920s and 1930s, and in most cases remarkable only because of his notoriety. Extended use of the term without awareness of the Yiddish root, however, has invited interpretations of “gun” as suggesting more than simply criminal associations. Bonnie Parker and Blanche Barrow were gun molls in this stronger sense, and especially notable examples in general, because of their accompanying the rest of the Barrow Gang to the planned locations of violent crimes, and, in Parker’s case, apparently directly assisting at least to the extent of loading guns in the midst of shootouts.

(Addendum: This came up when Bill Christensen, aka @Technovelgy, tweeted, “Also adds interest for the old term ‘gun moll’ — which could now mean women who buy guns for their boyfriends.”)