Friday, January 16, 2015


You may have heard recently about how the St. Louis homicide rate is up. If you follow the local newspaper (especially the comments sections) it may lead you to believe that St. Louis is more dangerous than old Dodge City, with running gun battles on every street every day.

The truth, of course, is similar to the truth in most other big cities: your chances of becoming a crime victim vary, depending on a number of factors:

1. neighborhood you live in
2. basic precautions you take
3. lifestyle choices

In quite a few St. Louis neighborhoods, your chances of becoming a crime victim are similar to (if not lower than) your chances in many St. Louis County municipalities. Location really does matter. That said, however, you can do things to lower your chances of becoming a crime victim no matter where you live.

As far as basic precautions, do you lock the front door when you leave your house, even if you're just going to work in the back yard? Does your door have a deadbolt? Do you lock your windows? Do you keep hedges / bushes trimmed so that they're not great hiding places? Do you have a burglar alarm system? Can't afford one? Can you afford two signs from Home Depot that say you do? Do you have several lights on timers, so that if you're on vacation or just get home late there are lights on in the house?

What about your car? Do you routinely lock it, with windows rolled up? Do you have a club? Do you leave things like purses, tablets, cell phones, packages, spare change, etc. in plain view on car seats? Do you always drive to and from work using the same route at exactly the same times? While driving, are your doors locked and windows up enough that someone would have trouble grabbing / accosting you or other car occupants?

As far as lifestyle choices, do you belong to a gang or use any illegal drugs? Do you frequent bars or clubs, especially late nights? Consume alcohol to excess? Do you walk /jog alone, especially early morning or at night? Are you wearing headphones when you walk / jog?

One last point: as is the case with all other big city murder rates, what really scares most people are random murders, i.e., where the killer and victim didn't know each other and the victim was apparently chosen at random. However, in St. Louis as elsewhere, if you were to separate out gang shootings, drug related killings, and domestic violence incidents, it would leave relatively few random murders.

Therefore, treat big city violence statistics the same way you should treat other statistics you encounter in news articles: with your BS detector on full alert.


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