Serial Killer Stats

If you enjoy reading mystery novels or watching that type of thing on television, you probably have heard of ViCAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. In most mysteries, the detectives can input information about their particular crime, and voila! A pattern emerges that sets them on the trail of a serial killer or a serial rapist. Aren’t statistics wonderful?

The problem is, all of that is fiction. Yes, ViCAP exists. Yes, when it’s used properly, it’s helpful. But submitting data to ViCAP is voluntary, and most police departments don’t take it seriously. Less data, less value. Less value, less desire to input data. And with most police budgets shrinking, they really don’t have the time or the manpower to input their information anyway. So, yeah, ViCAP is more of a success in theory than in practice.

I find this supremely frustrating, because data and its analysis is an extremely useful tool. It really amazes me that agencies that are so male dominated aren’t loving the statistics. Most guys can rattle off sports data as if it should be common knowledge. They take their fantasy football seriously. Why they don’t want to apply that to their jobs is beyond me.

I’m not the only one who’s frustrated, though. According to an article entitled, “Serial Killers Should Fear This Algorithm”, A guy named Thomas Hargrove has created a database that’s even more interesting than ViCAP, and it’s publicly accessible. It’s called MAP, or the Murder Accountability Project.

MAP identified a serial killer in the Gary, Indiana area, and yet the local police didn’t take it seriously when Hargrove pointed this out to them on multiple occasions. They  were forced to do so, however, when they finally caught Darren Deon Vann, who led them to several of his victims, and admitted he had been killing for years. If local police had listened to Hargrove when he first approached them, seven of the victims might be alive today.

Here’s a bone chilling thought: Hargrove believes that every city has at least a few serial killers. That’s one of the reasons why he has made his database publicly accessible. That way the general public can see these patterns for themselves. It’s also an open fact that the closure rate for murder investigations is getting worse with each passing year, so clearly law enforcement needs a change in tactics, and data analysis could very well be that much-needed change.

If you read the article mentioned above, you’ll get a good sense of how the MAP database works. Then, hop on over to the database itself, and you’ll be bowled over by the articles on the homepage which indicate that so many homicides are not reported that MAP is actually suing the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for failing to obey a 3l year old congressional mandate says these homicides must be reported.

If we actually had good, accurate, up to date data, which MAP is attempting to achieve for the first time in our history, this algorithm would spot trends across towns, districts and states that have been previously overlooked. We have many more ways to communicate and share information than we once did. These killers would find it a lot harder to hide. Justice would be served and a lot of grieving families would finally get the closure that they deserve.

Meanwhile, if someone you love has been a victim of a violent crime, or if you are stuck at home and itching for a way to make a difference, I urge you to dive into the MAP database and spot a few trends for yourself.

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In Honor of the 200,000

By the time you read this, we’ll have blasted past 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in America, with no end in sight. That’s an inconceivable figure. Its so large that most of us can’t accept it.

That’s 200,000 grandparents, parents, siblings, children, friends, loved ones. Every single one lived and laughed and worked and loved and mattered. If each of those people only had 5 people on earth who loved them (a very conservative figure, in my estimation), then there are 1 million grieving people out there, right now, and it has only been 6 months.

We were all devastated by the victims of 9/11. Now imagine that 9/11 happened more than 67 times over, or basically every other day since this pandemic started. That’s what would have to happen to get to 200,000 deaths in that tragedy.

This is a grizzly thought, but given the average height in America is 5’6”, if you lined up the 200,000 dead head to toe along some rural highway, they would stretch for 208.33 miles. Driving at 52 mph, it would take you more than 4 hours to pass all those bodies. Seriously, that’s a lot of soul-crushing loss.

And lest we forget, dying of COVID-19 is a horrible way to go. Each one of those people suffered. Each one struggled to breathe. Each one felt as if he or she were drowning in their own bodies. And they weren’t even able to have a loved one there for comfort. They died all alone.

And the vast majority of these people died needlessly. Other countries have demonstrated that the death toll doesn’t need to be this high. Our COVID-19 death toll is 597 deaths per million Americans. That may not seem like much until you compare it to other countries. New Zealand has had 5 COVID-19 deaths per million. Japan has had less than 12 deaths per million. Venezuela has had 17 deaths per million. Greece has had 29 deaths per million. Australia, 32 deaths per million. Egypt, 57 deaths per million. What’s it going to take before we realize that something is seriously wrong with the way we’re handling this virus?

We need a leader who leads by example. One who doesn’t disparage those who wear a mask. One who does not encourage his base to congregate, maskless and shoulder to shoulder, to worship him. We need adequate testing. We need accurate reporting. We need financial support. We need supplies for frontline workers as well as the general population. We need a president who actually listens to his own staff, multiple members of whom have come forward to say that they’ve begged him to wear a mask, to set an example, to only share accurate information rather than insane speculation, and not politicize this virus.

In honor of the 200,000 people who can no longer do so, please be sure to vote in the upcoming election. Their silence was forced upon them. We have to speak for them. Please vote.

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Polluters Should Pay for Plastic Pandemic

I actually wrote this post a few months ago. I keep putting off its posting, because it feels strange to bring up yet another important issue when we all have so many other things on our minds. But it’s beginning to weigh me down, having it sit there in queue, gathering dust. So here it is. I hope you can see through all our other stressors long enough to take it seriously. Thanks for reading. Stay safe.

I just read a very disturbing article, and it wasn’t even about COVID-19. It is in the Rolling Stone, and it’s entitled, “Planet Plastic: How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades.”

It’s a long read, and a disturbing one. Here are just a few of the statistics it mentions.

  • Each one of us ingests nearly 2,000 particles of plastic a week, from tap water, food, and the air. That’s the equivalent of swallowing 1 credit card a week.

  • Worldwide, we use 1 million plastic bottles a minute and 500 billion plastic bags a year.

  • A dump truck load of plastic enters our oceans every minute.

  • Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste, 91% of which has never been recycled.

It goes on to say that the fossil fuel industry is doing its best to keep us consuming plastic, because as we start to break our dependency on oil, the only way they can continue to make a profit is by selling it to us in the form of plastic.

There is one bright note. A Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 has been introduced to Congress. This act would ban many single-use plastics, and force corporations to pay for programs to keep plastic out of the environment.

Making the front end polluter pay sounds like a really great first step, but this act faces forceful opposition from the oil and soda lobbies, and Trump is very much in favor of propping up the oil industry, so it will be interesting to see how far this gets. Ask your congressman to support this act.

We need to do something. We probably won’t. This has got to stop. It probably won’t. But at least there are people out there who are thinking about it, and they need our support.

Recently a dead whale was found with nearly 64 pounds of plastic waste inside his stomach. That’s real. The picture below is an artist’s representation of this. If this doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks, nothing will.

Shocking Picture Of Whale With 29kg Of Plastic In Its Stomach Alarms The World About The Huge Plastic Pollution Problem

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A Brief Ego Blip

Last month I wrote a post about the Little Free Library that we built for our front yard, and my blog got 670 views that day. Clearly the subject resonated with people. I was really, really proud, because I’m currently averaging 107 views a day.

Throughout the day, I kept visiting my statistics page to watch the numbers go up and up and up, and it was such a rush. I didn’t want the feeling to ever end. But I knew it would, because this isn’t the first time this has happened on this blog.

One time I wrote a post that got 762 views in one day at a time when I was averaging 45 views a day. Ironically, it was called “Holy Screamin’ Cats! I’m Trending!!!” and it was about yet another viewing blip of 376 views. So the post about the trend exceeded the post itself. It will be awfully hard to break that record. Fame, however, is fleeting, as you can see by my statistics below.

I think that how someone deals with that says a great deal about that person. I could have mourned the loss of all that attention. I could have gotten bitter about the return to the status quo. I could have suffered ego withdrawal. But instead I’m choosing to look back at it and smile.

I’ve learned over the years that it’s impossible to foresee which of my posts are going to be popular. And in a way, that makes it fun. Roller coasters that are predictable are not nearly as exciting.

Thanks to all of you who have been along for the ride!

Capture

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Sobering Sexual Statistics

I just read an intriguing article in The Washington Post. It’s entitled, “The share of Americans not having sex has reached a record high”.  (First of all, interesting capitalization choices, but I already digress.)

The article came to several conclusions as to why we seem to be moving away from horizontal activities. The most obvious conclusion is an aging population and higher numbers of unattached people. Americans, in general, seem to be partnering up later in life. It also says that the employment rate among young people has declined, and the number of them living in their parent’s houses has increased. That has got to hurt your ability to get busy, as the saying goes. We are also spending a lot more time in cyberspace.

But I can think of several more reasons for this decrease in sexual activity.

  • A friend of mine said that he thinks the depressing state of the world and our politics is influencing this. That dreary mood could indeed, have something to do with why we as a nation are not in the mood.

  • Unfortunately, too, more and more of us feel the need for antidepressants, and they’re more readily available, and most have the side effect of decreasing one’s sex drive.

  • But I also hope it has to do with the younger generation becoming more aware of sexually transmitted diseases. I know for a fact that this had an impact on me. I was looking forward to going to college and really letting loose. But I arrived on that scene just as AIDS started to rear its ugly head. Noooooooooo! Life is so unfair!

  • Also, I believe that today’s women are starting to realize they have more to offer the world, and are less apt to view themselves as some kind of sexual commodity. At least I hope so.

  • We’re also even more busy and distracted. We have a lot more options to occupy our minds and fill our lives.

  •  I think we don’t feel the need to procreate as much, or marry as much, in order to feel successful and/or to survive.

  • And yeah, we’re an aging demographic, and becoming more obese as a species. Declining health and less energy equals fewer shenanigans.

But I tend to look at these polls with a jaundiced eye. (Look how inaccurate they were during the last election.) How much of the population was sampled? How do you know they answered honestly?

Plus, nobody asked ME. No one ever asks me. Why is that?

Bad Mood

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The Nuts and Bolts of This Daily Blog

I spend about 4 hours a day working on this blog. I’m fortunate in that I have the kind of job that allows me to do much of this while on the clock. If I had to dedicate this much of my free time to keep this engine chugging along, trust me, you’d be staring at a blank page.

The truth is, though, I don’t blog every day. Actually, I write two posts a day, four days a week. At least, that’s my goal. The nice thing about WordPress is it allows me to postpone my publishing date, so I can have them come out one a day, one minute past midnight, Pacific time.

If I don’t have at least 10 posts in queue at the end of my four day writing week, I’m very uncomfortable. My world doesn’t feel quite right. I genuinely believe that this weekly routine has improved my writing greatly over the years.

Sometimes I plan even farther ahead. For example, if I have a vacation coming up, I try to get enough posts in queue that I don’t have to mess with it during that time. (I love you guys, but sometimes I need a break.)

But who am I kidding? Even on holiday, the first thing I do when I wake up is check my statistics to see how many people have been reading my musings, and try to get a sense of what brought them here. I also post a link to the day’s publication on my Facebook group, The View from a Drawbridge. Then I run back over to my statistics and watch them spike, because a lot of my readers find me through Facebook. I’m averaging 106 views a day, now. What a rush.

I also try to respond to all comments the moment I see them. I figure if someone has taken the time to read what I write and respond to it, the very least I can do is reply. And I love the comments most of all, because it makes me feel like we have a community, here. And often that feedback from what I call Drawbridge Nation inspires other writing topics, which is wonderful.

Every day, I also reread and edit every single post that’s in queue. That means that if you see a typo, I’ve likely overlooked it as many as 10 times. Shame on me. (I really do appreciate it when you guys point errors out to me, though, so I hope you’ll keep it up.) Often the final draft is so different from the original as to be unrecognizable.

But that also means that I don’t want to get too much more ahead than 10 days. More than that and I feel so removed from the topic in question as to have become bored with it. I’m so over my writing after the 10th edit.

Another thing I try to do is link back to other posts that have something to do with the one you’re reading. After 6 years, I have quite the backlog to draw upon. New readers seem to appreciate this the most.

And after more than 2,200 posts, I’ve found it useful to keep a spreadsheet with the titles, the date published, and a short sentence as to what each post was about. In alphabetical order. With a link to the post. Because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to find anything, and since the ultimate goal is writing anthologies, this is a tool well worth maintaining.

I also link to other sources of information whenever possible. I’m humble enough to realize that there are others out there with more expertise and insight than I have. It is my hope that my posts are starting points for people, not dead ends.

And I enjoy finding really interesting pictures to include in each post. I’ve discovered that a lot of search engines have a way to filter their photographs so you can choose one that is “free to use or share.” If ever I were to be approached by someone who said that I didn’t have permission to use a photograph, I’d take it down immediately. I really do take copyright seriously. But I love the fact that it’s often the photo that draws the reader in.

One thing I do every waking moment is think in terms of blog fodder. Things I see or do. Conversations I have. The news of the day. Suggestions from you, dear reader. All can inspire a post. I have a long list of ideas for future posts. Some have been on the list for so long that I can barely remember what I was talking about. I’ve come to view everything through the filter of my blog. It’s second nature to me now. Like breathing out and breathing in. (I also tend to think in terms of song lyrics.)

This blog came to life because it occurred to me that I spend a great deal of time all alone in my little bridge tower, staring at the same view day in and day out, and because of that I notice minute details that most people overlook. I figured this blog would last 6 months, if that. But now I can’t imagine life without it, and without all of you. It’s such a big part of my routine, and such a source of joy for me.

What a gift. What a gift. And your reading of my writing is what makes it come alive. You are the nuts and bolts of this blog. So thank you, dear reader. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

(And a big thank you to Ray for suggesting this topic!)

You

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Sticking to the Facts

I just spent three hours, three hours, trying to track down a fact for a particular blog post. I know I read it, less than an hour before then. I know it. Really. I do. Because I thought, “Oooh. That would be good to mention.” But I can’t find it again, despite my avid search, and I can’t remember the exact wording, so I can’t put it in the post.

Do you have any idea how maddening that is? Honestly, I don’t know how journalists do it. The urge to make stuff up must be intense. (Oh, yeah. It’s called Fox News.)

This is why most of my posts are opinion pieces. I can basically pull anything out of my hind end and put it out there for your reading pleasure, as long as I don’t call it a fact. And believe me, I’m chock full of opinions. You don’t even have to agree with them. I promise.

But, dang, that little statistic was so tantalizing. I tried rereading all the literature I had just read. I tried Googling. I tried reading all the literature yet again, paragraph by paragraph, backwards, so I wouldn’t get caught up in the content. Still nothing.

I hope you can take comfort from the fact that I’m trying, here. Because I’m probably going to lose sleep over this. You’re welcome.

Facts

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Stupid, Stupid Boy

So, it’s fairly certain that one of the biggest fires in Oregon at the moment was started by a 15-year-old boy playfully throwing a smoke bomb into a ravine while hiking in the woods. To hell with burn bans. The world is one big video game! Woo hoo! If we destroy everything, we just hit the reset button, right?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The vast majority of the crime and destruction in this world is perpetrated by boys between the ages of 15 and 24, regardless of race or religion. It’s like they take out their brains and set them on a dusty shelf in the back of their closets for a decade.

I know that’s a sweeping generalization. I’m sure there are plenty of good kids wandering around. But from a statistical standpoint, I wouldn’t bet the farm on any of them. When it comes to violence, theft, graffiti, traffic accidents, bar fights, rape, DUI, and general stupidity, the numbers bear me out.

I hope there are consequences for this kid. I hope he has to help fight this fire. I hope he has to walk through the devastated landscape afterwards and see what he’s done. Somehow, someone has to get through to him.

He won’t be in the stupid stage forever. How will he feel in his 30’s about what he did? This may sound strange, but I hope he regrets it quite a lot. Because that will show that he has developed some sort of a moral compass, as painful as it will be for him. If, on the other hand, he laughs it off, is allowed to get over it, or becomes angry and bitter and stays stuck in his stupidity, then heaven help us all.

forest-fire

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Viral Days

It’s funny. You can float along in cyberspace, completely anonymous to all but friends and family, and then all of a sudden, BAM! The limelight blasts you right in the cornea.

It’s happened to me a few times. It’s always unexpected and seemingly random. And it feels very strange. I had one of those days recently. Two things happened at the same time.

First, I wrote a blog entry in response to something that had been posted on the website of The Stranger, a local alternative news publication that I actually happen to like quite a bit. But they stepped on my drawbridge toes, and I had to speak up about it. Out of courtesy, I shot them an e-mail to let them know that I was mentioning them in my blog.

The next thing I knew, my blog was getting a lot more views than was normal. This year I’ve been averaging 135 views a day. But on this day, I got 470 views, and the next day I had 283. What was going on?

A quick bit of Google sleuthing made me realize that The Stranger had in turn blogged about my blog! So I was getting an influx of readers from their site. They hadn’t even told me. They didn’t even talk to me about it. But there you go. A few more seconds in my 15 minutes of fame.

The other thing that happened I kind of brought upon myself. I posted pictures of my dog Quagmire on a Dachshund Facebook group page. All I did was ask folks how old they thought he was. Well, my goodness. The post has been “liked” 390 times so far, “loved” 209 times, and shared 3 times.

It’s also gotten 178 comments. The consensus seems to be that he’s “cute” and “sweet” (little do they know!) and that age is just a number. Many say that Quaggie is lucky to have me. (Yay!) They also say that their dogs started getting grey as early as 2 years old, or as late as 11, so his milk mustache is not an accurate predictor. The vet says he’s anywhere from 5 to 9 years old. The average guess on the site seems to be that he’s around age 8. (Quagmire is keeping his own counsel.)

Either one of these two incidents would have been mind-blowing. Both happening on the same day was… surreal. Thanks everyone! Now, please forgive me if I crawl back into my cyber-hole and marvel from afar.

limelight

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They Love Me in Ghana

One of the coolest things about WordPress, in my opinion, is that they give me statistics of the countries from which my readers originate. I find it fascinating that I’ve had readers from pretty much everywhere (except China and North Korea for obvious reasons). I sit here in this little room, typing away, and I have no idea on what shores my posts will wash up.

Recently I’ve noticed a significant spike in readers from Ghana. Seriously. This year so far, the only countries that have given me more readers than Ghana are the US, the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia. This intrigues me.

Finally, I figured it out. About three years ago, I wrote about Jacksonville, Florida’s Ghanaian Princess. Apparently someone stumbled upon that post. That makes sense.

What I can’t figure out is what happened after that. Someone must have said something about it on Ghanaian social media of some sort, because all of a sudden, about a hundred more compatriots visited my blog.

Sadly, no one commented. I have no idea if they liked what they read or not. I have no idea how the word spread. I have no idea if they found any value in my post. I’d love to know if it was read by the princess’ relatives.

I’ve said this before. Blog posts are kind of like messages in bottles. You have no idea what will become of them, unless the readers take the time to comment.

So I will simply send greetings and best wishes to my Ghanaian readers. I am honored by your presence. I would love to know more about you. Thank you for stopping by!

ghana

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