Violent crime – especially murders - often lead most newscasts in the St. Louis area. The 30 second TV report doesn’t tell you much. An 18 year-old was found shot to death. A woman was found strangled in an apartment. Police are looking for a blue Chevrolet driven by two males, armed with an assault rifle, etc. This is what we hear night after night.
These short bursts of information from the media tend to give one the impression that we live in a very violent community. We don’t.
After nearly 33 years in this business, which includes a stint in homicide, I have a few suggestions on how you can keep from being a homicide victim:
- Don’t involve yourself in the drug trade.
- Don’t carry an illegal firearm.
- Remove yourself from domestic situations where violence or the threat of violence has occurred.
- Remove yourself from a household that has someone with untreated mental illness where violence or the threat of violence has occurred.
If you happen to be in a rough neighborhood and are purchasing narcotics, bad things can happen. However, it has nothing to do with the neighborhood and everything to do with what you were doing when it happened. Make sense?
Most of the time, the public never finds out what the victim was doing when the murder happened. We know what happened, but out of respect for the family, we rarely disclose those facts to the media. Police work hard to solve these crimes, as nobody deserves to be a homicide victim.
With all of this said, there are very rare instances where a murder happens and the victim just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. One example I can think of recently was the Megan Boken murder last summer in the Central West End.
Megan was truly an innocent victim. Most people who heard about the Boken case said to themselves, “This could have been me or my daughter.” That’s what made her murder particularly disturbing and tragic. Any child death also fits into this category - although many of the child deaths are as a result of something the child's parent was doing that fits into 1 - 4 above.
Again, these kinds of random or innocent homicides are very unusual and yes, the police do work these kinds of cases with particular passion and vigor. Isn’t that what you’d expect of us?