“How easily murder is discovered!”
— Shakespeare, “Titus Andronicus”
Murder might have been easy for the great playwright to imagine, but it’s not always easy for the professionals to figure out.
“We all know about the drug-related murders that plague most of our cities and the gun crimes that have become an everyday occurrence as well as a national disgrace. Yet it used to be that most crime, particularly most violent crime, happened between people who in some way knew each other. We’re not seeing that as much any longer,” wrote John Douglas, the famed FBI psychological profiler, in his 1996 book “Mind Hunter.”
Deadly 2022 in Lake County::12 homicide investigations, 16 victims, and 3 months to go
Statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show that from 1996 to 2020, about 25 percent of the victims in homicide reports were killed by family members or someone they live with, but 75 percent of the relationships are “unknown.”
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Domestic violence murders in Florida ranged from 161 to 200 each year between 2010 and 2020, and that figure hasn’t changed much over the almost 30 years that FDLE has kept the statistics.
Douglas spent years crawling into the darkest criminal minds, including serial offenders, whose personalities are complex and baffling, so he is of course more focused on those.
Closer to home, most homicides in Lake County tend to be individual cases of jealousy, rage, greed, robbery and crimes of passion.
So far this year, Lake County authorities have investigated 12 homicides with 16 victims, since four were double homicides. The record number of homicides, 19, was set in 2018.
Some other FDLE statistics
Statistics can be a puzzle sometimes. Take the FDLE Murder by Firearms chart, for example.
In 1971, the first year listed, there were 7 million residents in Florida and a total of 932 murders, for a rate of 13.2 per 100,000 residents.
By 2020, with a population of 21.5 million, the rate per 100,000 was less than half, at 6.0. The total number of murders by firearm was listed at 1,285. Meanwhile, the percentage of murders by firearms was 79.8 percent, up from 67.4 percent in 1971.
The FDLE Supplemental report lists the following known circumstances in 16,381 homicide cases:
- other felony, 3,116
- lovers’ quarrel, 1,569
- vehicular negligence, 1,474
- drug-related argument 1,206
- drinking argument, 664
- other negligence, 608
- money argument, 445
- other negligence/weapon handling, 194
- “other,” 7,105.
Gun violence seems to be an issue that defies any statistical or cold mathematical analysis, especially when there is a mass shooting, like the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, when 49 people died, or the Marjory Stoneman High School shooting, where 17 lost their lives in 2018.
Mass shootings, considered by most people to be rare, get full-blown news coverage. But The Washington Post has reported that mass shootings are increasing in frequency.
From August 1966 to April 1999, there was a mass shooting every 180 days. From April 1999 to June 2015, there was an average of one every 84 days. The latest figure? One every 47 days, the Post has reported.
The Post classified a mass homicide as four or more victims, including the shooter.
No matter the scope or the circumstances, numbers don’t begin to tell the story. A bullet not only goes through the victim, but its impact is felt by the victim’s and the defendant’s families and the shooter.
Unlike some crimes, like fraud or theft, there is no “closure” in murder, nor restitution. Not even the most punitive justice can bring back a loved one.
Shakespeare had the last word on that, too, in “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar:”
“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”