Those not living in a cave have no doubt heard about the two murders who escaped from a New York prison.  Without arguing about the justness of this manhunt, I wanted to non the less point out some of the false perceptions that are involved in it and how they warp our ideas about the world, starting with the “killers on the loose” fear tactic.

Killers on the Loose

Killers are on the loose, and all is not right with the universe until they are captured again.  The public is in grave danger until they are caught, or so we are told. Yet the reality is that there are killers on the loose all around you.  It is practically a statistical certainty that you have passed them before in the grocery store, yet were completely unaware.

This is because a large number of homicides go unsolved. In many districts, less that 50% are solved. This means that in any given year thousands of murders go free all across the country. Multiply that year over year, and there are literally hundreds of thousands of murders walking among us.

There are also discrepancies within the justice system itself on how these acts are punished.  One murder might plead to get a 10 year sentence and be out in 6, whereas another in a different county with a different judge receives life without parole. The same violent crime, same outcome, two different punishments.  If you count the numbers of people just like these two who have been released from prison into society and thus are walking among us, (not to mention the alcoholics or drug addicts who murder someone unintentionally yet are just as lethal and dangerous as the calculated killers), the number goes up even further.

So why the focus on these two prisoners?  One thousand plus law enforcement officers working around the clock? An enormous amount of equipment? National news coverage 24/7? The likelihood that as this manhood stretches into weeks, the number of man hours involved could reach into the millions.

It is likely correct to say that there are many murder cases that don’t receive 20 hours of solid investigative work, let alone the millions of man hours likely to be pored into the hunt for these two.  It’s an example of psychological distortion — exaggerating one perceived threat while completely ignoring others.

These two may indeed be dangerous. But their threat to the community in comparison to other dangers has been greatly exaggerated.  It’s an example of how things are not always as straight forward as we perceive them to be.

 

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