Just a quick follow up on some stories from a few weeks ago. Last week Masslive and The Republican posted a follow up story on the murder which inspired my “Two Springfields” blogpost. I selected the event only because of its proximity to my own house, in contrast to how different, and distant, the perception of my life is from that reality. The details of the murder as expressed in the recent piece illustrate exactly the point I have always tried to make regarding violence in the city; it is not random and it is far less likely to impact people randomly than the violence inflicted on people by the automobile in environments where the latter is prioritized.
In the news story the reporter details how apparent jealousy escalated into a violent conflict between two individuals. The dispute was specific and personal. The chances of the perpetrator accidentally stabbing me on his way to fight with his girlfriend’s ex are very, very close to zero.
On the other hand, during the same news cycle a huge accident took place in the city. Not in a densely populated, typologically urban setting, but in the post war “suburban” part of the city. Parker Street is a four lane undivided road with dozens and dozens, or if you count driveways, hundreds of perpendicular points of ingress and egress with hills and curves where cars commonly reach speeds of 45-50 mph. One small mistake or slight miscalculation by one driver can instantly place dozens of people in harms way through no fault of their own.
Could that be me, or you in that crash even if we take great care when we drive? Of course it could, and as a matter of fact I would venture to say that it was, in a certain sense, “me” or “you” in a way the death of David Guasp was neither me nor you. I have never and would never seek to resolve a romantic conflict through violence. Nothing could be more foreign to me. (Were it not foreign to me the risk would be the same, wherever I lived.) I have, on the other hand, driven down Parker Street…though not very often. I avoid it. I avoid driving whenever possible. I walk, mostly in a neighborhood where cars go slowly, State Street excepted.
Look at the headline accompanying one of the original reports on the homicide:
Notice how the nuance of the story about the 40% drop in murders (40%!) is completely gone because murder #14 puts the city even with last year’s number…and that means that with just one more murder in the city in the next three months the reporter can trumpet:
AN INCREASE IN MURDERS IN SPRINGFIELD!
Oh! Happy day!
Remember, now, the drop of 40% warranted no headline and a detailed explanation of how the relatively small number of murders compared to overall crime can give rise to huge percentage variations year over year…when the numbers show a decline…but, wait…what? The percentage might go up 7% year over year?
“CRIME RUNS RAMPANT IN CITY! EVERYONE AT RISK! PREPARE TO DIE! YES, THIS MEANS YOU!”
On the other hand, just putting Parker Street crash or accident Into that very site’s search engine gets you this list of horrific events on just page one:
You will search in vain for a word in any article related to the most recent event which connects to any of the prior crashes or which tots up in any way the number of lives impacted by these events in spite of the fact that they are, in fact, much more likely to impact an average reader than the voyeuristic details of urban domestic violence, drug crime, and gang murders.