Murders in Philadelphia: Some PerspectiveWhen I was in college, like many American kids, I studied "the troubles" of Northern Ireland. Maybe because Ireland has such a mythical place in the consciousness of so many Americans, or maybe simply because they speak English and have an "interesting" conflict to study, the province is run over with Americans looking at murals, ethnographically interviewing people, and writing a thesis or two about why so many of these people who seem so alike kill each other so often. (In fact, so many Americans study there that there is a common joke: Q:What is the typical Derry family? A: A mother, a father, two kids, and an American doing peace and conflict studies.)
Part of what makes studying in Northern Ireland so appealing is that it is small enough so that everyone is very accessible. So that when I did a study of Loyalism, I sat down for a two hour interview with the former head of the UDA, the largest Protestant paramilitary, and someone who had ordered the deaths of countless people. And, on a day their Government was on the verge of collapse, the Chairman of Sinn Fein sat down and talked to us for an hour.
Much of what makes it so accessible is simply its size- roughly 1.7 million people. In fact, when I thought about the type of interviews I was getting, I had a habit of comparing it to having a whole part of Academia studying Philly, because at 1.5 million people, we really were not that different in size.
Anyway, here are the murder statistics, by year, for those killed in the troubles:
The average year in Northern Ireland, the place famous for murder, saw 115 people killed. If we look at 1971-1980, the ten worst years of the troubles, the average number of people killed is 214 people.
Now, lets look at the murder rate for the past ten years in Philly, a similarly sized place:
The average number of people killed? 350. So even in its worst years, Northern Ireland, the place studied by countless students, the recipient of millions upon millions of dollars in aid, had about two-thirds of the murders that Philly has had in the past ten years.
Anyone else think that we need a new approach to crime prevention?