Saturday, February 22, 2014

Murder by the numbers

We mystery writers are a macabre bunch. Take for example those of us from the Rocky Mountain Chapter of MWA. At a typical monthly meeting we might have a medical examiner, a homicide detective, or an arson investigator. We love the gruesome crime-scene details. We could be eating a spaghetti dinner while watching a PowerPoint on autopsies. A favorite presentation was a series of death-scene photos and we had to decide: was it murder or suicide? We learned a new police term--DRT: Dead Right There. We were told that if you entered a burned-out room and smelled roasted pork that meant there was an incinerated human corpse near by. So none of us is kosher!

This interest in mayhem drew me to google "murder by weapon," which linked me to the FBI Expanded Homicide Data Table. It lists the types of murder weapons and the number of attributed victims (all dead) 2007-2011. Interestingly, the number of all homicides and the number by weapon has declined from year to year. The exception is the uptick in people killed by explosives and drowning. Guns of all types, knives, poison, strangulation--all down.

Total murders for 2011: 12,664.

Number One murder weapon? No surprise. The handgun. 6220 deaths in 2011, almost half of the total number. No duh! The pistol was designed as a handy, concealable instrument of deadly force so good job, gun and bullet designers.

Number Two? Cutting instruments. 1,964 deaths. Knives, razors, machetes, scalpels. How about a harpoon? Would an ax be classified as a cutting or blunt-force weapon? I guess it depends on the fatal wounds. Chop someone's head off--cutting instrument. Bury the ax in the skull--blunt force. These distinctions are important. See, we do like the gruesome.

Number Three? Firearms, type not stated. 1,587 deaths. (Could be pistol, shotgun, cannon, basically anything that barks over here and bites over there.)

Number Four? Personal weapons, meaning parts of your body such as hands, fists, feet, pushing someone. 728 deaths in 2011. What's really interesting is that with all the wailing about "assault rifles," more than twice as many people were killed by hands (and feet, perhaps a knee or elbow, biting even) than from rifles. Strangulation is considered separately. I guess the difference is if you use your bare hands or a ligature of some kind.

Number Ten? Asphyxiation. Death by pillow. 89 deaths.

What was dead last? Poison. 5 deaths.

To spice up the statistics, check out Homicide Table 11, Murder Circumstances. 3 people were murdered as a result of prostitution and commercialized vice. While 85 were in a romantic triangle. So I guess you're safer with hookers than you are with a partner who has a jealous ex.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

That's funny. Poisoned makes the most sense to me.