What Do You Mean 'We'?
'We' are not broken.
It is very difficult to be a pundit with a national or international audience. There is an ever present temptation for such a writer to pontificate their understanding of exactly what’s wrong with ‘us’. I think far fewer writers are actually deserve such a mark of genius than presume to speak for ‘us’. At least many of those whom I have read this past week, have put such a spin on the deadly encounters we have witnessed through the interwebz in the First World. I’m talking about Uvalde, TX, a town that will live in infamy so long as it gets hits.
Of course it must be related to Ferguson, MO in terms of the flashmobs of attention seeking it has generated. What are our other infamous towns? We all remember Waco, TX and Sandy Hook, CT and Columbine, CO. Don’t forget Jena, LA and Sanford, FL. Such towns that suffer tragedy are a screenwriter’s dream. It must seem so for those who produced and those who watch Ozark. If the writer has got someone like you pegged, then most of America must be like that, neh?
As a business intelligence professional, moving inexorably towards machine learning and AI stuff, it makes me choke to hear these generalizations. Today the webz have got on my nerves concerning the shortcomings of a town of 17,000 to deal with a hostage rescue, which is exactly what is called for when an active shooter goes about his dastardly business. I myself have been trained in combat pistol shooting and have formally engaged in shooting simulators given various rules of engagement. I have trained with shooters who have worked in shot houses, and seen first hand how the FBI and LA area Hostage Rescue Teams work. I have been to formal lectures on the subject. I know a bit more than the average Joe. The overlaps are complex between my formal career and this additional study. But you might say it begins with something like this:
Each dot on this page represents crime, according to The Gun Violence Archive.
But there are better sources that get more fine grained than that. The following comes from CrimeGrade where the information goes down to areas as small as a few square blocks.
What a 911 dispatcher would record and what a criminologist would see gets even more detail that this. Here are some sample records in a well-known dataset from Seattle:
Of course the real data gives the actual address. A professional like me could link this data to the officer, get his arrest history, number of court testimonies, and show conviction rates by judge and then connect that to the sentence, time served and possible recidivism. Today, professionals like me are expensive, but the tools to do this are relatively cheap, if not free.
I lived in one of those cool green colored neighborhoods for about 17 years. Over that period of time we had a total of 4 murders. I grew up in one of those bright red neighborhoods where I knew two actual convicted murderers by name. These neighborhoods are literally 7 miles apart. So is Los Angeles deadly? Are the LAPD harboring criminals? How can you possibly know if you only listen to people talk?
I don’t know why big news organizations like CNN, FOX and NYT don’t have data engineers publishing this level of detail every single day. This is why they are heading towards disintermediation, because people like me could make this information as easy to use as Facebook. As it stands, big media can profit by being ahistorical. Conscientious data folks like me fume. I perceive that universities throw their hands up, and so it goes that all of the youth are walking around staring into user interfaces that are addictively sexy. One day we’ll get data like this to them in realtime and newspapers will be dead. At the moment, we only get sex offender alerts, kidnapped children alerts and pontificating pundits who tell us we are all doomed.
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