Swedish conditions reach Norway

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

This year, for the first time, Norway’s statistical agency reported on the relationship between crime and country of origin:

Immigrants from certain backgrounds—particularly Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghanis—were many times more likely to commit violent crimes than other Norwegians (including other immigrant groups). In 65 out of 80 crime categories, non-Norwegians were over-represented. The largest discrepancy was in regard to domestic violence: Immigrants from non-Western countries were found to be eight times more likely to be charged for such crimes. Rape and murder were also heavily skewed toward these immigrant groups. Worryingly, the figures showed that second-generation immigrants were more likely to be criminals than their parents.

These are svenske tilstander — Swedish conditions.

Violence is rare and commonly occurs due to confusion and helplessness

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

Anne Nassauer — Assistant Professor of Sociology at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin — notes that video surveillance footage shows how rare violence really is:

Today, videos from closed-circuit television, body cameras, police dash cameras, or mobile phones are increasingly used in the social sciences. For lack of other data, researchers previously relied on people’s often vague, partial, and biased recollections to understand how violence happened. Now, video footage shows researchers second-to-second how an event unfolded, who did what, was standing where, communicating with whom, and displaying which emotions, before violence broke out or a criminal event occurred. And while we would assume such footage highlights the cruel, brutal, savage nature of humanity, looking at violence up-close actually shows the opposite. Examining footage of violent situations – from the very cameras set up because we believe that violence lurks around every corner – suggests violence is rare and commonly occurs due to confusion and helplessness, rather than anger and hate.

Armed robberies are an example in point. We would assume robbers to resort to violence if clerks fail to hand over what is in the register; after all, that is the fundamental proposition of the situation. Instead, video surveillance shows that robbers become afraid of the unexpected situation they are in and run away. It shows that criminals, like most people, rely on situational routines that offer familiarity and reassurance. In my research of surveillance footage of robberies clerks laughed at a robber’s assault rifle, and robbers, rather than shooting or hitting the victim, were startled and gave up. When a robber showed slight gloominess, a clerk cheered him up and the robber became even sadder, discussed his financial problems with the clerk and left. If clerks treat robbers like a child, surveillance footage shows how robbers may react according to this role and become hesitant and plead to be taken seriously. This means even in an armed robbery, where perpetrators are prepared and committed to the crime and clerks usually fear for their lives, robbers as well as clerks tend to make sense out of the situation together, avoid violence and get into shared rhythms and routines.

We can see similar patterns when looking at video recordings of protest violence and violent uprisings. In some protest marches, certain groups attend with the clear goal to use violence; they mask up and come prepared with stones to throw at police. In other protests, police decided on a zero-tolerance strategy and plan to use force at the slightest misstep by activists. Despite such preparations for and willingness to use violent means, violence rarely actually breaks out, and people usually engage in peaceful interactions. If violence does erupt, we see that it does so not because people are violent or cruel, but because routine interactions break down, which leads to confusion, distress, uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, and ultimately violent altercations.

Similarly, research on street fights, or mass shootings shows that most people that have the will to fight and kill are actually bad at “doing” violence –as are the great majority of humans. Only very few people in very specific situations manage to be violent effectively, and it is those outliers that make it to the news. Contrary to common belief, rates of violence and crime have never been as low in most Western countries, as they are today.

Such findings have implications; fear of people’s cruel nature and violence lurking around every corner perpetuate everyday actions, drive voting behavior, and impact policymaking through worst-case-scenario thinking. Fearing fellow humans as inherently violent and cruel not only lacks empirical grounding, but research also shows it leads people to make bad decisions. Surveillance videos and recent research on violence challenge this notion that we need to fear each other. They counter the idea that we need elaborate protection from each other and constant state surveillance, which not only tends to cost public funds but also often curtails civil and human rights (e.g., privacy, free speech, free movement, right of asylum). The optimistic outlook offered by scientific analyses of videos might mean we can spend our time more wisely; instead of fearing each other and investing time and resources to protect ourselves from exaggerated dangers, we could enjoy society and our remaining civil rights and freedoms a little more.

Randall Collins (The Sociological Eye), whom she cites, makes similar points in Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory.

A vortex of smart-cam clips, Nextdoor rants, and cellphone surveillance

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

I don’t think this Atlantic piece on “porch pirates” in San Francisco is meant as an ad for Ring video doorbells (and Nest cams, too), but it achieves that goal nonetheless:

It was only about nine months later, in May 2017, when one of Fairley’s neighbors plastered photos of her, “Wanted”-style, on Nextdoor, that Fairley realized things were about to get worse. Nextdoor is an online ticker tape of homeowner and tenant concerns, and the grievances can be particularly telling in a city of Dickensian extremes like San Francisco, whose influx of tech wealth is pitting suburban expectations against urban realities. The city’s property-crime rate is among the highest in the United States. Nextdoor posts about dogs slurping from a public drinking fountain and Whole Foods overcharging again (“Be on guard”) show up alongside reports of smash-and-grab car break-ins, slashed tires, and an entire crime subgenre of “porch pirates,” the Artful Dodgers of the Amazon age.

Fairley and her neighbor do not agree — will likely never agree — on what happened in the minutes prior to the photos of Fairley going up on Nextdoor. Fairley has sworn that the boxes she picked up were from down the street, where they had been laid out for the taking, and that her 6-year-old daughter was helping to haul them to their home in the public housing down the block.

Julie Margett, a nurse who lives on the street, in a purple cottage with a rainbow gay-pride flag and a black lives matter sign in the window, said she was leaving her garage and spotted Fairley coming down her neighbor’s stairs carrying boxes with various addresses on them. Surmising that they were stolen, she asked Fairley warily, in her British accent, “What are you doing?”

Fairley called her a racist (in fact, she still does) and told her she was in the middle of moving. “That was what was so disarming about her,” Margett told me. “Before you know it, she’s torn you to shreds and she’s off down the block.” Margett snapped photos of the mother-daughter haul act — in one, the young girl sticks her tongue out at the camera — and, after calling the police, uploaded them into a Nextdoor post: “Package thieves.”

So, Fairley told me two years later, sitting in an orange sweatsuit in a county-jail interview room, that was the real acceleration of the epic feud of Fairley v. Neighbors of Potrero Hill, a vortex of smart-cam clips, Nextdoor rants, and cellphone surveillance that would tug at the complexities of race and class relations in a liberal, gentrifying city. The clash would also expose a fraught debate about who is responsible, and who is to blame, for the city’s increasingly unlivable conditions. As Fairley says, “It just got bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Parts of potrero hill feel like the sort of charmed place where Amazon deliveries could sit undisturbed on your stoop. The hill’s western ridge, overlooking the city, is filled with cozy bungalows and Victorian houses that once were affordable for San Francisco’s working and artistic classes but have appreciated during the tech rush; now most of them sell for well over $1 million. The public hospital where Fairley was born is now named after Mark Zuckerberg.

Meanwhile, the hill’s eastern and southern flanks are still lined with decrepit 1940s-era bunkers of public housing between patches of scruffy grass and concrete patios. The unhoused have set up camp around the neighborhood too, the city’s homeless population having spiked 30 percent in the past two years. This sometimes has led to hostile and politically divisive clashes, like when a luxury auction house at the foot of Potrero turned its sprinklers on the tents clustered outdoors in 2016. (The auction house claimed that the sprinklers were meant to clean the building and sidewalks, and were “not intended to disrespect the homeless.”)

Find another man who is kinder and stronger to stand in the way

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

In 2015, two years after graduating from university, :

In one session, we asked the women to make an A3 map of their lives from torn-up magazines. The collage would show a road that meandered from their past experiences to future goals. Almost every road began with bottles of vodka, syringes and shadowy characters, and almost every one ended with symmetrical houses and white wedding dresses and Laura Ashley sofas. I had spiked the magazine pile with my partner’s railway-modelling magazines and glossy Sunday supplements in the hope of inspiring something different — a new job, an interesting hobby, some travel, perhaps? — but to little avail.

[...]

“It will be finding ‘the one’ that will get me out of my mess,” she said. “He will look after me and keep people away who come round trying to sell me gear [heroin] again.”

Cathy’s was an oft-told story. She had been prevented from seeing her children by social services because she couldn’t stop seeing an abusive partner. He kept coming round and, against her best judgment, she opened the door.

What I wanted to say was that she didn’t need a man to straighten her life out for her, that she had “everything she needed inside of her” (life advice that works best when Instagrammed over a picture of a thin white girl walking into a sunset).

In time I came to realise that she was probably right. Ambition and independence are a good deal further up the hierarchy of need than security. It’s pretty realistic to assume that the quickest way to ward off a coercive and abusive man is to find another man who is kinder and stronger to stand in the way.

Who’s paying attention to the prey?

Friday, October 18th, 2019

In The Crime Fighter, Jack Maple, one time New York City Transit Police officer and later Deputy Commissioner of NYPD, describes how he would spot criminals:

He would simply look for “prey”, and then look for who was paying attention to the “prey”. In short, he had to think like a criminal.

The CIA paid $240,000 to buy the world’s entire supply of LSD

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

The director of the CIA’s infamous MK-ULTRA program, Sidney Gottlieb, was the unwitting godfather of the entire LSD counterculture:

In the early 1950s, he arranged for the CIA to pay $240,000 to buy the world’s entire supply of LSD. He brought this to the United States, and he began spreading it around to hospitals, clinics, prisons and other institutions, asking them, through bogus foundations, to carry out research projects and find out what LSD was, how people reacted to it and how it might be able to be used as a tool for mind control.

Now, the people who volunteered for these experiments and began taking LSD, in many cases, found it very pleasurable. They told their friends about it. Who were those people? Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, got his LSD in an experiment sponsored by the CIA by MK-ULTRA, by Sidney Gottlieb. So did Robert Hunter, the lyricist for the Grateful Dead, which went on to become a great purveyor of LSD culture. Allen Ginsberg, the poet who preached the value of the great personal adventure of using LSD, got his first LSD from Sidney Gottlieb. Although, of course, he never knew that name.

Nobody needs more than seven rounds for self defense

Friday, September 27th, 2019

The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 restricted the sale of normal-capacity magazines; it only allowed seven rounds of capacity. Older magazines were “grandfathered” in, but you weren’t supposed to load them with more than seven rounds.

Chris Hernandez noted at the time that nobody needs more than seven rounds for self defense:

After all, when you shoot someone even once, they fly through the air and drop dead, just like in the movies.

I arrived on a robbery call one night. A robber had shot a man through the sternum with a 9mm hollow point. He looked dead. I got on the radio and notified dispatch that we had a murder. Thirty seconds later, the victim started moaning and squirming. Less than a minute later he was fully conscious and complained, “This is the fifth time I’ve been shot.”

But nobody needs more than seven rounds. One round is usually fatal. And nobody could possibly still be a threat after being shot more than once.

The same robbers shot another victim that night. One round in the ankle, one in the face and one in the forehead. 9mm hollow points. This victim turned and ran about 500 yards through an apartment complex, pounded on a door to beg for help, and passed out. Last I heard, years after the shooting, he’s still alive.

But nobody needs more than seven rounds. When you shoot someone, they fall to their knees, pledge their soul to Jesus, gasp dramatically and die.

I answered a disturbance call one night. A teenage girl calmly told me that she had gotten into a fight with her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. Several minutes into the story she informed me she had been shot through the thigh. I looked down and saw a bullet wound through her leg. She was completely unconcerned about it.

I responded to a burglary in progress. A teenager on PCP picked a random house and started kicking the sun room door in. The homeowner stood by the door with his 9mm pistol, called 911 and warned the teenager he was armed. The teenager kicked the door in. The homeowner shot him in the leg, then retreated into the house. The teenager forced his way into the kitchen. The homeowner shot him in the stomach. When we arrived, we had to wrestle the teenager into handcuffs. Had the teenager been armed, he still could have fired a weapon.

But nobody needs more than seven rounds. Seven rounds are more than enough to stop any criminal threatening you. When a criminal gets shot, their body’s entire blood supply sprays onto all the walls and they die within milliseconds.

I answered a call about a man with a gun. When I knocked on an apartment door, a drunk inside pointed a gun at me through a window. I jumped out of the way, drew my weapon and screamed at the drunk to drop the gun. He kept moving the gun, trying to get me in his sights. Another officer in a different spot shot him.

When we got inside the apartment, we found the suspect wide awake, flailing around on the floor. Fortunately a family member had disarmed him. He could still have shot us. The officer had hit him under the left arm. The round went all the way through his upper body and stopped just under the skin below his right arm. Last I heard, years after the shooting, the drunk was still alive.

But nobody needs more than seven rounds. When someone is trying to kill you, all you have to do is fire slowly and carefully to make sure you don’t run out. You can even count your rounds as you shoot. It’s easy.

When investigators asked the officer who saved my life how many rounds he fired, he said, “Two or three, I think.” But when they counted rounds in his magazine, it turned out he had fired eight. He had been a cop for over twenty years, and was a survivor of several shootings. Under stress, he lost count of his rounds. Because that’s what happens when you’re shooting to save your life, or to save someone else’s life.

But nobody needs more than seven rounds. You can just shoot the bad guy in the head. It’s easy to make a head shot under stress, right? And they’re immediately fatal.

I answered a stabbing call at a nightclub. When I arrived I found two women standing at the open door of a truck, telling the driver, “You’ll be okay.” When I shined my flashlight on the driver, I was stunned; he hadn’t been stabbed, he had been shot in the head with a .38 from close range. About a third of his skull was blown away. And he wasn’t just alive, he was awake. He nodded to the women, wiped his face, did his best to stay calm. When paramedics arrived, the man got out of the truck with minimal assistance. He died hours later.

I arrived on a shooting/riot outside a club. One man was dead in the street, another had been taken to the hospital by private car. As we tried to control the crowd, a severely beaten young man walked up to me and slurred, “Hey man, we need an ambulance.” I answered, “Yeah, we have one on the way.” As I spoke, I noticed a bloody dent on the side of the young man’s head. I thought, Is that a bullet hole? The man collapsed at my feet. A 9mm Black Talon hollow point had bounced off his skull. The wound didn’t put the man down until several minutes after he was shot. He survived.

I assisted on a rollover accident. The driver was an older woman who lost control of her truck. At the emergency room, a CAT scan revealed a bullet in her head. The woman died. Her husband was unconscious. Days later, when the husband awakened, investigators asked who shot his wife. The man answered, “Oh yeah, that. She told me she got shot in the head about ten years ago, before we got married. She never went to the doctor or nothing, though.” An autopsy showed it was an old wound. This woman got shot in the head, and never even bothered to get medical attention.

But nobody needs more than seven rounds. If little bullets don’t work, get a pistol that fires bigger bullets. Nobody could still be a threat after being hit by a big round.

In one of our firefights in Afghanistan, three French Marines were hit by gunfire. One died from a head wound. The other two were hit in the upper body and badly wounded. Those two Marines got back to their feet, kept their weapons ready and made it to safety with help. And they were hit by either 7.62×39 AK-47 rounds or 7.62x54R PKM machine gun rounds. Those are far more powerful than what any typical pistol fires.

These stories are all from my personal experience. Secondhand, I know of a man who was shot in the forehead, sneezed and blew the round out his nose. I know of a gang member who had half his head blown off by an AK round, then told the first responding officer, “They shot me, dog.” I know of a robber who ran into a restaurant with an Uzi and was immediately shot twice by an off-duty officer, then ran to a payphone and called 911 to report he had been shot.

Historically speaking, I know of the suspect in the Miami FBI shootout who sustained a non-survivable wound in the first few seconds of the fight, but still managed to kill two FBI agents and wound several others. I know of a drunk suspect who shot an Arkansas deputy twice, then took seventeen 9mm rounds in the torso without effect before the deputy finally shot him twice in the face. I know of the young Georgia mother who shot a burglar five times in the head and neck. He asked her to stop shooting, cried, and drove away. I know of many Soldiers and Marines who sustained horrible wounds and stayed in the fight.

It is not the seller and so can’t be responsible

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

Amazon has shifted from something like a big-box store to something much more like a flea market:

A Wall Street Journal investigation found 4,152 items for sale on Amazon.com Inc. ’s site that have been declared unsafe by federal agencies, are deceptively labeled or are banned by federal regulators — items that big-box retailers’ policies would bar from their shelves. Among those items, at least 2,000 listings for toys and medications lacked warnings about health risks to children.

The Journal identified at least 157 items for sale that Amazon had said it banned, including sleeping mats the Food and Drug Administration warns can suffocate infants. The Journal commissioned tests of 10 children’s products it bought on Amazon, many promoted as “Amazon’s Choice.” Four failed tests based on federal safety standards, according to the testing company, including one with lead levels that exceeded federal limits.

Of the 4,152 products the Journal identified, 46% were listed as shipping from Amazon warehouses.

[...]

Amazon’s common legal defense in safety disputes over third-party sales is that it is not the seller and so can’t be responsible under state statutes that let consumers sue retailers. Amazon also says that, as a provider of an online forum, it is protected by the law — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 — that shields internet platforms from liability for what others post there.

[...]

Third-party sellers are crucial to Amazon because their sales have exploded — to nearly 60% of physical merchandise sales in 2018 from 30% a decade ago, Amazon says. The site had 2.5 million merchants with items for sale at the end of 2018, estimates e-commerce-intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse.

Amazon doesn’t make it easy for customers to see that many products aren’t sold by the company. Many third-party items the Journal examined were listed as Amazon Prime eligible and sold through the Fulfillment by Amazon program, which generally ships items from Amazon warehouses in Amazon-branded boxes. The actual seller’s name appeared only in small print on the listing page.

[...]

In contrast, Walmart Inc. requires all products on store shelves be tested at approved labs, company documents show. Target says it requires suppliers of store-branded products to undergo additional inspections and testing beyond government standards.

Target and Walmart have created online marketplaces for third parties to sell directly to consumers. Target’s site, launched earlier this year with several sellers, is invitation-only. Walmart had around 22,000 sellers at the end of 2018, according to Marketplace Pulse. It requires an application that can take days for approval, and only a fraction of merchants applying make it through the vetting, says a person familiar with Walmart’s policy.

Less than 1% of the city’s population accounted for more than half of its lethal incidents

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Since Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of Americans have died in terrorist attacks and mass shootings — while more than 100,000 have died from common street violence:

Urban violence accounts for most murders in the U.S., but politicians focus on everything except the violence itself, instead issuing sweeping calls to ban guns, legalize drugs or end poverty.

In a 2016 paper, my colleague Christopher Winship and I analyzed reviews of more than 1,400 studies on anti-violence programs around the world. We discovered that urban violence is sticky, meaning that it tends to cluster among a surprisingly small number of people and places. In New Orleans, for instance, a tiny network of less than 1% of the city’s population accounted for more than half of its lethal incidents between Jan. 1, 2010, and March 31, 2014. In Boston, more than 70% of all shootings between 1980 and 2008 were concentrated in less than 5% of the city’s geography. In almost every city, a few “hot people” and “hot spots” are responsible for the vast majority of deadly violence; the key to addressing the problem is to pay close attention to them.

I don’t think we’re supposed to look too carefully at these hot people and spots.

The biggest Epstein conspiracy mystery is not how he died

Friday, August 16th, 2019

The biggest Epstein conspiracy mystery is not how he died, Steve Hsu explains:

The more important mystery is how he managed to operate out in the open for 15-20 years. Rumors concerning Epstein and leading figures like Bill Clinton have been around for at least that long. I have been following his activities, at least casually, via mostly non-mainstream media sources, for well over a decade.

In the 1990s I was a Bill Clinton supporter. I voted for him twice and supported his efforts to move the democratic party in a centrist, pro-business direction. But my brother is a Republican. He fed me a steady stream of anti-Clinton information that I (at the time) dismissed as crazy right-wing conspiracy theories. However, with the advent of the internet in the late 90s it became easier to obtain information that was not filtered by corrupt mainstream media outlets. I gradually realized that at least some of my brother’s claims were correct. For example, Clinton’s first presidential bid was almost derailed by charges of adultery by women like Gennifer Flowers. Supporters like myself dismissed these charges as a right-wing smear. However, years later, Clinton admitted under oath that he had indeed had sex with Flowers.

I believe my first exposure to Hillary Clinton was her appearance on 60 Minutes after the SuperBowl in 1992. This was widely regarded to be the emotive performance (“stand by your man”) that saved Bill Clinton’s presidential candidacy. Hillary affects a fake southern accent and (I believe) lies boldly and convincingly about Flowers to an estimated 50 million Americans. Quite a display of talent.

A side-effect of my history as a Clinton supporter (and gradual enlightenment thanks for my brother!) is that I became quite interested in the tendency of the media to hide obvious truths from the general public. We Americans accept that foreign governments (e.g., the Soviets and “ChiComs”) successfully brainwash their people to believe all sorts of crazy and false things. But we can’t accept that the same might be true here. (The big difference is that people in PRC — especially intellectuals — know they are being deceived, whereas most Americans do not…)

It was natural for me to become aware of Epstein once he was linked to Bill Clinton at the very birth of the Clinton Foundation. For someone with even a slight interest (let alone an actual journalist), it was easy to uncover very disturbing aspects of the Epstein story — including details of his private island, traffic in young women, connections to the rich, the powerful, and even to leading scientists, academics, (many of whom I know) and Harvard University.

But just 6 months ago I could mention Epstein to highly educated “politically aware” acquaintances with absolutely no recognition on their part.

Stack your attackers

Monday, August 12th, 2019

About 40% of violent criminal attacks involve more than one attacker, Greg Ellifritz warns:

I’m seeing lots of recent news articles where groups of teens attack individuals and couples.  The teens often beat the victims into unconsciousness.  Take a look at these news articles that have been posted in the last couple weeks.

All of these events involved groups of three to eight criminals attacking a single person or a couple.  These group attacks seem to be increasing in frequency.

His advice:

  1. The best way to win the fight is to avoid it.
  2. Multiple attackers are more dangerous to you.
  3. Whenever possible, try to “stack” your attackers.
  4. If you end up grappling with one of your attackers, use him as a shield to keep between you and the other attackers.
  5. Chokes are important.
  6. Don’t go to the ground.
  7. If you can’t escape, stack your attackers, or manipulate one to be a shield, you must attack.

The suspects had a history of threats or other troubling communications

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

So, what role does mental illness play in these mass killings?

Multiple studies done between 2000 and 2015 suggest that about a third of mass killers have an untreated severe mental illness. If mental illness is defined more broadly, the percentage is higher. In 2018 the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a report titled “A Study of the Pre-Attack Behavior of Active Shooters in the United States Between 2008 and 2013.” It reported that 40% of the shooters had received a psychiatric diagnosis, and 70% had “mental health stressors” or “mental health concerning behaviors” before the attack.

Most recently, in July 2019, the U.S. Secret Service released its report “Mass Attacks in Public Spaces—2018.” The report covered 27 attacks that resulted in 91 deaths and 107 injuries. The investigators found that 67% of the suspects displayed symptoms of mental illness or emotional disturbance. In 93% of the incidents, the authorities found that the suspects had a history of threats or other troubling communications. The results were similar to those of another study published by the Secret Service on 28 such attacks in 2017.

[...]

It should be emphasized that mentally ill patients who are receiving treatment are no more at risk for violence than the general population. Yet it is also clear that without treatment some seriously mentally ill people are at greater risk for violent behavior than the general population.

It doesn’t seem like we take mere threats very seriously.

You don’t control all the variables

Friday, July 26th, 2019

Trying to figure out why a criminal chooses to commit a crime can be a bit tricky at times, Greg Ellifritz reminds us:

I had been called to a nursing home on the complaint that a homeless man was sitting outside being argumentative with staff and residents. The nursing home staff didn’t want charges filed against the guy. They just wanted me to get him to leave.

I found the man sitting on a bench right in front of the nursing home entrance. I approached him, introduced myself, and explained the reason why I was there. He told me that he was homeless and stayed at a local shelter. He had a bus pass, so I offered to give him a ride to the nearest bus stop so that he could get “home.”

The interaction couldn’t have gone better. I was nice and polite. He was nice and polite. He understood why the nursing home didn’t want him there. I wasn’t going to arrest him. I asked him where he wanted to go and was in the process of taking him there. There was absolutely no motivation for him to attack me.

Yet he did. He extended his hand to shake and when I took it, he shot in for a double leg take down. I sprawled, took his back, and got him cuffed in just a few seconds. As soon as I got his arms behind his back, he stopped fighting and apologized.

If I recall correctly, he was in his mid-40s (a few years older than me at the time). He was really tall, but very skinny and undernourished looking. No past criminal record other than some minor convictions for trespassing and disorderly conduct. He wasn’t on any drugs.

He was just crazy. The voices in his head told him to do it. After I arrested him, he was calm and polite again. He couldn’t tell me why he had tried to take me down. It was almost like he suffered from extremely poor impulse control. He had a strange thought and he just suddenly had to act on it. No rhyme or reason.

Another anecdote:

I was once dispatched to a traffic crash in the early afternoon. After I arrived on scene, I quickly determined that the person who caused the crash was incredibly intoxicated. He was a tiny (103 lbs) male in his 20s and drunk out of his mind (later tested at .229). As I was handcuffing him, I asked him a question:

“Do you have any weapons on you?”

Nods head yes

“What do you have, a gun?”

Nods head yes

“Where is it?”

He says “right here!” and rapidly goes for his waistband.

Greg smash. To the ground we go. I land on top of him, get control of his hands and cuff him. After he’s cuffed, I search him. No gun.

“Why did you say you had a gun?”

Laughs. “Cuz I’m a fuckup”

Another:

About a year ago, I responded to a very chaotic call. A college-age male was playing basketball with his friends on a junior high school playground. His friends reported that he sort of “spaced out” and then suddenly ripped off his shorts and shirt. Clad only in his boxer shorts and shoes, he ran away from his friends at full speed. The friends were puzzled by his actions and started following the nearly naked man.

He ran to a neighborhood across the street from the school. He walked up to the front door of a house and kicked it in. He entered the house and began tearing up all of the furniture and destroying all the art in the house. He did not know the owner of the home and seemingly chose the house randomly. In less than five minutes he caused almost $30,000 in damage and ended up cutting himself pretty badly.

He walked out of the house, took his shoes off, and ran back to the school. There was a girls’ lacrosse game going on. The man ran directly onto the lacrosse field and tried to take lacrosse sticks from a few of the girls. An athletic trainer saw this bleeding man wearing only underwear and appearing disoriented. The trainer approached the bleeding man and asked if he needed medical attention. The man punched the female trainer in the face.

By now, the fans watching the game noticed what was happening. Several of the girls’ fathers chased the man down and tackled him. They held him down until we arrived. It took several cops to get him under some semblance of control and into the back of the police car. He banged his head on the plastic screen that separates the back seat of the cruiser from the driver for almost the entire drive from the scene to the jail.

When he arrived at the station he punched an officer and it took four of us to get him controlled and buckled in to a restraint chair. He soon became almost catatonic. We summoned the medics to come check him out. Blood pressure and heart rate normal. No difficulty breathing. No wounds deep enough to need stitches. He got a clean bill of health.

So why did he destroy a house, attack an athletic trainer, and punch a cop?

We don’t know. About an hour into the arrest, the suspect became fully coherent. He didn’t remember any facet of the incident. He said that he had consumed some “magic mushrooms” and shortly thereafter started acting irrationally. He said he did the mushrooms regularly and that he took the same dose that he always takes. He’s never done anything like this before.

I’ve been a cop for 24 years. My undergraduate degree is in natural resources management. I went to class every day in college with hippie “tree hugger” types who liked to smoke dope and eat mushrooms. I’ve also been to Burning Man five times. I’ve seen LOTS of people high on psychedelic mushrooms. None of those stoned people acted like this guy.

I suspect that he was either lying about what drugs he took, or that he had consumed some contaminated mushrooms. His behavior is more consistent with the behaviors of people doing synthetic cathinones (Spice, K-2, Bath Salts). He was displaying signs of excited delirium, not what I would expect from a person who has taken a “normal” dose of ‘shrooms.

Sometimes the drugs have a more indirect effect:

I asked him if he ever tried to get off the heroin. He said:

“No. I don’t want to get off of it. The drugs don’t even get me that high any more. I inject the heroin just to keep from getting sick. It doesn’t make me happy like it used to.”

“What I like is the adrenaline high from stealing things. I also like the adrenaline high I get from buying the dope without getting caught by the police. Those are my motivations; the drugs just keep me from getting sick. I just really like the thrill I get when I’m stealing things and the heroin ensures that I keep stealing. You can put me in jail, but I’ll start stealing and using again the first day I get out. I’ll never stop. I don’t want to stop”

What’s the point in telling all these stories?

The point is that the criminal who attacks you may have absolutely no motivation whatsoever for the attack. His motivations might also be altered by drugs or alcohol. He might just want the adrenaline spike he gets from committing the crime.

You might never really understand a particular criminal’s motivating drive. Unfortunately that lack of understanding doesn’t prevent the criminal from victimizing you. As I mentioned before, you don’t control all the variables. There are situations where no level of increased awareness, verbal judo, or “de-escalation” will prevent your victimization.

Rekognition misidentified darker-skinned women as men 31 percent of the time

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

Amazon’s Rekognition face-recognition software doesn’t always work that well, particularly on people of color:

An MIT study released earlier this year found that Rekognition misidentified darker-skinned women as men 31 percent of the time, yet made no mistakes for lighter-skinned men.

Have you confidence in me to trust me with your watch until tomorrow?

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

The term “confidence man” appears to have been coined in 1849 during the trial of one William Thompson in New York:

A debonair thief, Thompson had a knack for ingratiating himself with complete strangers on the street and then asking, “Have you confidence in me to trust me with your watch until tomorrow?” Many did, which cost them their expensive timepieces. The much-publicized trial and the odd crime at its heart piqued the interest of Herman Melville, who reworked it eight years later for his under-appreciated high-concept final novel, The Confidence-Man. After boarding a Mississippi steamboat on April Fool’s Day, its Mephistophelean titular character adopts a succession of guises with evocative backstories and surnames (Goodman, Truman, Noble) with the aim of getting one over on fellow passengers. Spurred by self-interest and reflective of society at large, the dupes place unquestioning trust in tokens such as attire and profession, making them as complicit in the con as the perpetrator. In The Adman’s Dilemma, which used literary and cultural waypoints to chart the evolution of the common snake-oil salesman into the modern man of advertising, Paul Rutherford bleakly described Melville’s novel as “a study in deception and even a self-deception so complete that there was no possibility of redemption”.