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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

America, The Violent: Guns End More and More Spats

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 7:42 AM

Snitch Benjamin Wachs discovers that getting away with murder is easier than ever, largely because of stranger killings and the 'stop snitching' ethos. -d2

Murder just got scarier

In San Francisco, “spontaneous violence” is replacing “motive” for murder.

By Benjamin Wachs

While the homicide rate is rising, the number of arrests for homicides in San Francisco is dropping steadily, according to statistics compiled by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Getting away with murder is getting easier.

In 2004, 43 homicide cases had arrests made. In 2005, it was 34 cases. In 2006, 25. Now, in 2007, with four months left to go, officers have made ...

arrests in just 19 cases.

Granted that sometimes cases have arrests made long after the fact: a 2004 homicide can have a 2005 arrest, throwing off statistics. But Lenore Anderson, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, says that it’s the changing nature of murder that really makes it tough to make arrests.

“An increase in spontaneous violence, across the country, is a major challenge,” Anderson said. “Those tend to be harder cases to investigate, because there’s no leads.”

Imagine two homicides. The first is a gang shooting. Right there, police already have a lot to go on: they know gang members – which gives them people to question. They can find out who had a grudge against the victim. There’s a limited pool of suspects whose means, motives, and opportunities need to be tracked.

Now imagine a second scenario: two guys who have never met before get into an argument at a bar. Both are carrying guns, and only one of them walks away.

In this scenario, who do police talk to? Who do they question? Both the victim and the murderer could be anybody, and there’s a nearly unlimited pool of potential suspects. Unless the police get lucky … or a knowledgeable witness comes forward … there’s almost nothing to go on.

That second kind of homicide – ordinary arguments turned deadly - is becoming the norm. It’s a major cultural shift – and it’s making life hard for law enforcement and citizen alike.

“More and more guns are relied upon to solve day to day problems,” Anderson said. “People rely on guns so much more quickly in the course of normal conflicts than we would ever think, or want. I was talking to some residents of a housing complex last week, and they were all asking: what can you do?”

The best strategy, according to police testimony before the city’s Public Safety Committee, involves getting as many guns off the street as possible – fewer guns in the hands of people given to spontaneous violence means fewer shootings.

“How else can you prevent this except by taking guns out of the equation?” Anderson asked.

Sadly, no one else seems to have a better idea – and while it may prevent shootings, it doesn’t help arrest shooters.

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David Downs


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