#79 Dangerous Illusions (2003)

All Rights Reserved © 2003 Thomas W. Day

If we ever needed to be comforted that "things are going to be ok," it's probably now. The nation's cities are overpopulated, over-crowded, under-managed, and more dangerous than they've been since the turn of the last century.  People are afraid that they're going to be raped, robbed, murdered, and/or squashed by falling 747s piloted by Islamic terrorists.  We are turning timid as quickly as our social environment is growing aggressive.  The solution is . . . television. 

In 2001, the National Crime Information Center reported 840,279 missing persons (of which 85-90% are children) and the fraction of those returned is so unpredictable that I was unable to find a meaningful statistic regarding the nation's unsolved missing persons resolution rate.  The fact that the missing persons statistics are not delineated into categories makes it difficult to isolate kidnappings that were investigated from the other categories of missing persons. Regardless, with those huge numbers of missing persons, in 1985, the NCIC entered only 14,816 cases in its involuntary missing files and the FBI only chose to investigate 867 cases, some of those were adult victims.  Out of that tiny fraction of the nation's missing persons, an even more discouraging number were "found," most commonly dead. 

This ought to be especially discouraging because it's obvious that the Feebs are cherry picking the cases to select ones that they expect to solve and they're still not getting the job done.   An imaginary 63% of U.S. committed murders resulted in prosecution in 2000 (down from 79% in 1976).  I'll explain in a few sentences, why I classify that statistic as "imaginary."  While crime goes unsolved and we become more isolated in our homes and communities, television's CSI Miami and Vegas are wrapping up every vagrant's death as neatly as Xmas packages.  

Missing, the television myth that glorifies the FBI's never-before-sighted exercise of human compassion, actually cares if taxpayers miss an appointment.  The ultimate television hoax, X Files, portrayed an FBI agency that went out of its way to read case files.  I admit that I'm a little jaded about television's fairy tales. 

Twenty years ago, my stockbroker was an ex-Atlanta detective.  He'd quit and restarted his career when he found himself unable to carry on normal conversations with friends or family.  He was beginning to view everyone as scum floating at the top of the pond.  When he decided to leave the policing business, standard operating procedures were changing in the nation's cop squads that made him feel his occupation was even more pointless.

In the early 80s, urban police departments began to imitate the FBI's long held habit of "ganging" crimes on to the sheet of whatever high profile "most wanted" criminal they'd recently stumbled upon.   What this means is if Mulder and Scully tripped over a serial murderer and someone handed them enough evidence to securely lock that person up for life, what's the harm in sticking a few dozen unrelated homicides on that bad guy to clean up the paperwork?  After all, how often are our sluggish government bureaucrats likely to trip over another Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, or even someone as dangerous as Married with Children's Al Bundy?   You gotta do what you wanta do and they do. 

So, if the federal cops claim that they have a 63% resolution rate on murder, I figure they're probably batting somewhere below .200.  The difference between imaginary crime fighting and reality are on television almost every evening.  I drive by the real guys most every morning on the way to work and, if that group of civil servants could chase down a donut, it would only be after a waitress has corralled it on a plate for them.  After they satiate their compulsion to "protect and serve" themselves, they are too fat to actually chase criminals. 

A guy I worked with a decade ago, is more the kind of person I'd expect would excel with the FBI.  He was a failed medical student, turned MBA-adorned middle executive in charge of covering up our employer's antics with a collection of unreliable and hazardous medical products.  He was being actively recruited by the FBI because he was, obviously, their kind of guy.  His motivation for attending to the task of joining the FBI was "they have a great pension plan" and "I can retire when I'm fifty and consult for the companies I've investigated."  It's good to have high moral standards and lofty goals when you're heading off to protect the public. 

 The now famous Elizabeth Smart story ought to tell us everything we need to know about crime fighting's capacities.  A girl obviously kidnapped and held, practically in plain sight, a few blocks from her home by a vagrant her parents had hired to do grunt work only a few days before the kidnapping.  If the FBI and local cops could solve any crime quickly, this should have been the one.   As happens far too rarely, a half-year after the kidnapping, a citizen recognized the kidnapper based on an artist's sketch of the suspect and called it in to the cops who managed to drag themselves away from donuts long enough to rescue the girl.   The FBI and all their mythical resources were useless and it was only the competent work of a beat cop that saved Ms. Smart from spending another year as a hostage in her own neighborhood.  Remember that her kidnapper was a transient who'd done maintenance work for the Smart family only a few weeks before the kidnapping. 

Can you say "obvious suspect?" 

Maybe this heartwarming story makes you feel comfortable about your "police protection," but I'm not that simpleminded.  John Walsh and his television program have made it clear to anyone capable of rational thought that the only way to rescue our loved ones from the worst people on earth is to drop our lives, sell everything we own, hire private investigators and spend all of our waking hours in pursuit of these criminals.  The police, the FBI, and all of the King's men are useless.  They're too worried about parking violations, speeding ticket quotas, pension plans, and outsourcing donuts to be distracted by our problems. 

 But not on television. 

The worst (most corrupt, least courageous, most self-serving) police force in the nation, New York's tubby-blue constantly-shifting line, are practically competent on television.  One of the most notoriously gangland related cities in the world, Las Vegas, has CSI uncovering killer DNA on every carpet fabric in Nevada.  The FBI finds missing vagrants, children, lawyers, and other otherwise ignored citizens in hours, often before the victims miss a single dose of some equally mythical life saving medication.  Pretty soon, I expect we'll see a series on how loving and helpful LA cops are to minority citizens.  Why not?  It wouldn't be less believable than picturing FBI agents in motion.  How about a show illustrating the SEC's relentless pursuit of corporate criminals?  That would be as believable as Spiderman, but no less so than Missing or "NYPD Blue.

December 2003

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