The Crime Clock and You

By Diane Dimond

October 23, 2009 6 min read

The official "Crime Clock" is counting down the odds that you or a family member or a friend will be touched by violent crime in the coming year. Think it can't happen to you?

The Crime Clock doesn't recognize race or age or gender. It's all about statistics.

The figures are compiled each year by the National Center for Victims of Crime. The numbers come from various government and private agencies like the Department of Justice, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The Crime Clock might easily be dismissed as just a bunch of numbers, but it really isn't. It's the scoreboard on which America keeps track of all the criminal ugliness that happens in our country. Take the individual crimes committed and divide by the number of citizens we have, and you get numbers that will leave you numb.

While I'm usually skittish of statistics that can be easily manipulated or interpreted in biased ways, I really think you can take these stats to the bank. Ready to digest some mind-boggling figures?

There are so many homicides in America every year it extrapolates to this: One person is murdered every 31 minutes in America.

One person — woman or man — is raped every 1.9 minutes.

One child is reported abused or neglected every 35 seconds!

Stop for a minute, and imagine the true impact of these statistics. The agony of men, women and children left behind in the wake of these crimes, their scars carried for a lifetime.

And that's not all.

The Crime Clock tells us one person is killed in an alcohol-related traffic accident every 40 minutes in America — that's more than four dozen people every single day.

One woman is victimized by an intimate partner every 52 seconds; one man is similarly assaulted every three-and-a-half minutes. Just imagine the number of people crippled by domestic violence every single day. It's mind-boggling!

One American home is burglarized every nine seconds. So what do you think your chances are of coming home one day to find your home has been violated, your belongings gone?

One elderly person falls victim to a violent crime every four minutes in the United States, and every single hour of every single day someone reports he or she has been victimized as part of a hate-related crime.

What are we doing to each other?

Last week in this space, I wrote about a wonderful organization called Crime Survivors (www.CrimeSurvivors.org) based in Orange County, Calif., founded and maintained by crime survivor Patricia Wenskunas. The group struggles to make sure victims of crime are not forgotten in a system that gives so much benefit of the doubt to criminal defendants. I'm not knocking the idea of "innocent until proven guilty," I just think we should give equal consideration to those left victimized. Patricia's mantra is that victims are blameless — that they can rise above their victimhood into true survivor status with the proper support.

Reading mere numbers can sometimes fog the brain. It's not until we hear individual stories about specific victims that we can truly begin to focus on the plight of victims and their families who suffer through the crime with them.

For every high-profile media case — think Matthew Shepard, Elizabeth Smart or Jaycee Dugard — there are hundreds of thousands of others each year you never hear about.

I doubt you heard about Patricia Wenskunas' terror. She had suffered an eating disorder since childhood molestation by an uncle. As an adult, a single mother, she decided to hire a trainer to get her on a healthy path. Nine months into the program, her trusted trainer invited himself to her home, where he surreptitiously drugged her, beat her black and blue, bound her and suffocated her with layers of saran wrap. She survived, she told me, because when he threatened to kill her son if she screamed, she leaped off a balcony to find help. At that point, Patricia the victim became Patricia the survivor.

None of us should be complacent or fall into the trap of thinking crime happens to someone else. The Crime Clock says otherwise. The Crime Clock shows us the odds are not necessarily in our favor of getting through life without being touched by the constant swirl of crime that infects our country.

I've met a lot of victims in my line of work. None of them want to suffer with the burden of what they've been through. I come away thinking there has to be a way we can help those of our fellow citizens most deeply damaged by violent crime.

Patricia, and groups like hers, can't do it alone.

Visit Diane Dimond's official website at www.dianedimond.com for investigative reporting, polls and more. To find out more about Diane Dimond and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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