We keep on reading that the vast majority of cases of murder, rape, and many other violent crimes are committed by people we know. But why is this? Is your child really safer among strangers than among his family and family friends? Statistics would seem to indicate that a child is VASTLY safer with a random group of strangers, and yet somehow this seems to defy common sense so brutally that it’s still tough to accept. So what are the causes of this great statistical discrepancy? I have some hypotheses:
We are ultra cautious of strangers and thus much tougher prey. For example, a woman walking down the street after work alone is probably carrying self-defense devices. Whereas a woman who has known a guy for a short time may let her guard down. Heck, some women will let their guard down after spending an hour with a guy. Seems like a much more fertile feeding ground if you’re a rapist to invest just a little time in gaining trust. Another example is child molestors. If little Johnny runs to mommy and says that the weird dude on the street corner touched him, the whole neighborhood will chase him with torches and pitchforks. But if he says his uncle, or his teacher, or his priest, or his father did it, that just makes everyone uncomfortable.
Murder is a very personal crime. The odds of someone just deciding they want to kill you on a given day while you walk down the street are extremely low, whereas the odds that you’ll piss a friend or relative off enough for them to wring your neck are somewhat higher.
Kidnappings are almost always a relative. There is no motivation for a non-crazy person to snatch a random kid. Ransoms are hard to collect in this country, serial killers of children are extremely rare(they tend to prefer women 16-30), and keeping a child for any other purpose is a lot more trouble than it’s worth. I dare say that fear of kidnapping, while the thing parents fear the most, is almost non-existent no matter how much your child wanders the streets alone. Unless there’s a custody dispute, the odds of someone wanting to grab your kid are something like 1 in 10 million.
So are strangers actually safer than people you know? I guess a lot also depends on the kind of people you know. I’ve continuosly been shocked by how many people I know bring dangerous people into their lives and then act surprised when bad things happen. Recently lost a friend of a friend to a guy with a rap sheet a mile long who decided to joy ride with them at 100 mph while he was high on coke, and ended up in a canal. He survived, his passengers all died. But some people seem fine and you can know them forever, but as soon as they have an opportunity…