Monday, 16 January 2012

Would you know your killer?

The plot of Two Graves revolves around a serial killer preying on strangers but what are the odds that you would know your killer? That is certainly something that nobody really wants to think about. But consider for a moment.

What do you think the odds are that you would know your killer?

What are the chances that the last face you see would not only be your killer but someone you know, or even more frightening, your spouse?

The answer, according to the latest United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) Global Study on Homicide, depends on whether you are a man or a woman. These statistics are a reflection of the serious problem of violence against women which often escalates to murder.

UNODC based much of its gender victim studies on a selection of European countries but this group mirrors most US statistics. In that group, 75% of the female victims were killed by someone they knew. In fact, 35% of the female murder victims were killed by their spouse or ex-spouse. That is compared to 5% of men who were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse.

This disparity also means that the location of the murders differ between men and women. Women are much more likely to be killed in their own home while men are more likely to be killed in the street.

For police, that means a woman found murdered in her home will know her killer three times out of four and one out of three times it will be her husband or ex. Is it any wonder that police concentrate on the husband, ex-husband or boyfriend?

Another effect of the relation with the murderer also affects the age of the victims when compared with gender. Worldwide, the percentage of male victims declines by over 12% between ages 15-29 and 70+. However, for women, the variation is only about 1% and actually increases for the 70+ group. The male’s statistics are explained by the murders related to criminal activities, increasing the odds for the 15-29 year old group being involved. For women, their close relation to their killers exposes them to the dangers throughout their lifetimes.

What does this mean for women?

We spend too much time training women about strangers, dark alleys and psychotic killers. Women should be watching for their killer in the bed beside them or in their ex-spouse or in that violent boyfriend. No amount of violence can be acceptable and should not be tolerated. Do you forgive the first time, the second, the fifth, the tenth? When will that beating become a killing?

Likewise, the police and courts need to deal with the issues of violence against women swifter and harsher. Stalking, threats, normally dealt with ineffective restraining orders, must be taken more seriously. We are finally dealing with drunk driving with some stronger penalties. When will we do the same with violence against women?

Silence or ignoring the problem, whether it is happening to you or someone you know, could be facilitating a murder.

“It won’t happen to me” could be written on your tombstone. Just ask three out of four women who were murdered last year!

Monday, 2 January 2012

FBI’s Top Ten List

With the New Year upon us, and all the best of lists, I thought it was time to mention the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.

If you have never looked at the list, you can find it here.

The Top Ten list started in 1950 when an International News Service requested a list of the “toughest guys” the FBI wanted to capture. The story took off and J. Edgar Hoover, never one to pass up an opportunity, implemented the program. Thomas J. Holden, wanted for murder, was the first person put on the list.

There have been 494 fugitives on the list and 465 have been captured. Of those 465, 153 Top Tenners were caught because of cooperation from citizens. That is almost a third of the list! So take a look and you might just find that your new neighbor or that guy in the coffee shop is actually a wanted criminal.

But remember, these are dangerous people (all men at the moment) and they are not to be approached. Call the authorities, just narrowing down where they have been seen can often be enough.

Two of the captured fugitives were recognized by visitors to the FBI. Imagine walking past the wall of most wanted and seeing someone you know?

The television show, America’s Most Wanted, is responsible for 17 of the arrests.

How long can someone be on the list? For Billy Austin Bryant it was two hours. And for Victor Manuel Gerena it has been over 27 years -- he is still on the list. Nine fugitives added to the list were even caught before the list was published.

Currently, the list only has eight active fugitives since Osama Bin Laden (deceased) and James J. Bulger (captured) currently remain on the list. As an aside, James J. Bulger was also the oldest person on the list at 69 years old.

How do you get on the list? (OK, there aren't likely many out there actually wanting to get on the list.) According to the FBI’s web site, there are two criteria:

“First, the individual must have a lengthy record of committing serious crimes and/or be considered a particularly dangerous menace to society due to current criminal charges.

Second, it must be believed that the nationwide publicity afforded by the program can be of assistance in apprehending the fugitive, who, in turn, should not already be notorious due to other publicity.”

To date, there have been 8 women on the list.

1968 saw the most fugitives apprehended with 33 and there were two apprehended in 2011. Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota have never had anyone on the Top Ten list. California has had the most with 55 – over 10% of the list.

And in case you are wondering, the idea caught on and many others, including the Marshals Service, the DEA, the Canadian RCMP, Scotland Yard and Interpol to name a few, all have their own list of wanted fugitives.

So, take a look at the list. See if there is anyone you recognize. You just never know when a wanted man is sitting next to you.