Maps represent place. If you map a series of events you are probably trying to connect “place” to those events in some meaningful way. I have a hypothesis regarding place and danger specifically as it connects to cities: despite the fact that a disproportionate number of murders occur in cities they are not place related, but behavior or identity related. Expressed more broadly, if a person is killed in “a drug deal gone bad” at the corner of Sheldon Street and Main Street in Springfield that person is dead NOT because he was on the corner of Sheldon and Main Streets, but because he was engaged in a drug deal. If an old man is ambushed in his driveway it is probable that the ambushees had him in mind as a target because of who he was, not because of where he was.
The significance of this is huge. Many people believe that city living is not a realistic option for them because it entails a perceived enormous increased risk related to crime, but despite the media hype, most victims of urban crime are not random, they’re not necessarily even urbanites as we have seen this week. The two examples given above are not hypotheticals, they are the backstories, according to media reports, of the two, count ’em, two, murders which have taken place in Springfield this year.
Right on cue WWLP-TV, “22 News” as they prefer to be known, creates an interactive feature with links to data on both murders. Again, the implication being that these murders are place related despite the fact that it is fairly obvious that they are not. On the other hand, 21 people, 10 times the number of people murdered in Springfield in 2016, have died in the WWLP viewing area on the highways and byways of greater Springfield; no map, no data links. Keep in mind that 8 people died in the first 8 days of the new year in the area, all reported on their station, and that did not spark any sort of interest in interconnectedness. Now two people have been murdered in just over three months and…BAM…interactive murder tracker here we go; guaranteed they were waiting for murder number two all this time to unleash this “OMG, violence is out of control” interactive map.
My hypothesis has a corollary: road deaths ARE place related. This one isn’t really mine, and it isn’t really just a hypothesis. This one is established fact. Rural roads, exurbs and stroads are more dangerous than urban streets. The highest death rates per vehicle mile are in the lowest density places, the lowest are in the highest density places. When you put my hypothesis together with this fact what you get is the paradox that people move away from walkable cities, (where what cars are present tend to move more slowly) to auto-dependent places (where not only is more driving necessary but more driving at high speed takes place) specifically due to concerns about safety and end up putting themselves and their children in much greater danger.
The numbers are staggering. Over 10 times the number of deaths compared to “urban violence” so far this year, and I would venture to say based on my constant perusal of the news for the Death Race 2016 feature, perhaps 50 times as many people seriously injured, and the media never puts any of these events together. Ever. The “stranger danger” element is perhaps the most significant; I am willing to concede, because I think it is demonstrably true, that I am in more danger relative to crime living in the neighborhood I do. What I would hasten to add is that the increased risk is almost immeasurably small, like my increased risk of health problems because I’m not particularly fond of kale. The chances a stray bullet could enter my home, and my cerebellum, following a drug deal gone bad are greater here than in a suburban place. That kind of thing can happen, that kind of thing has happened. But I’m not going to flee a million to one danger to live in a place where my increased use of the automobile puts me at a “stranger danger” risk which, just in this region in 3 months has taken the lives of 16 people. That’s not 16 traffic deaths, that’s 16 people dead because a stranger crashed into them.
Thank you WWLP for proving just how blind the media is to the basic facts regarding all of this. I’ll let our two “death lists” speak for themselves.
January 25, 2016 – Juan Zayas (71) – 38 Brookline Avenue
March 26, 2016 – Jeffrey Freitas (20) – Main and Sheldon Streets
March 31, 2016 Death 21 (motorist)
Location: 708 Chestnut Street, Springfield MA
March 27, 2016 Death 20(motorist)
Location: 28 Mcknight Street, Springfield MA
March 23, 2016 Death 19 (Pedestrian-worker directing traffic)
Location: Route 190, Somers, CT
March 22, 2016 Death 18 (motorist)
Location: Warren Road, Brimfield MA
March 18, 2016 Death 17 (bicyclist)
Location: Sargaent Street, Holyoke, MA
March 9, 2016 Death 16 (Motorist)
Location: Route 202 and East Street, South Hadley, MA
February 17, 2016 Death 15 (Pedestrian)
Location: 77 Ella Grasso Turnpike, Windsor Locks, CT
February 22, 2016: Deaths 13 and 14 (Motorists)
2 killed in Montague car crash; Route 63 reopened to traffic
Location: 250 Federal Street, Montague, MA
February 20, 2016: Death 12 (Motorcyclist)
Montgomery man dead after crash in Huntington
Location: Route 20, Huntington MA
February 18, 2016: Death 11 (Motorist)
Location: 347 Sewall Street Ludlow MA
February 17, 2016 Death 10 (Pedestrian)
Location: Route 5, Enfield CT
January 30, 2016: Death 9 (Motorist)
January 8: Deaths 7-8(motorists)
Location: Route 20, West Springfield MA
January 8: Death 6 (motorist)
Location: I-90 Mass Pike West Springfield MA
January 4: Death 5 (motorist)
Location: Westfield Road, Holyoke MA
January 4: Death 4(pedestrian)
Location: Granby Road, South Hadley MA
January 2: Death 3 (motorist)
Location: Main Street, Agawam MA
January 1: Deaths 1-2 (motorists)
Location: intersection of Hampshire and Chestnut Streets, Holyoke MA
Ages: 48, 52
Gender: Female, Male