They Are Not You: Preconceptions as Deadly Misconceptions

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When asked, independent of any other information, to form a mental image of a dangerous criminal offender, we tend to fall back on a combination of half-remembered images from the past, examples in media and, to a very large degree, internally maintained preconceptions. But how closely do our personal impressions hew to the truth of what is represented in the world? Moreover, to what extent do they and should they drive our choices about risk?

In this recent example from local police records, we are faced with open conflict between what we might picture and objective reality. Case in point: age 17, female, conventionally attractive, and (let’s be honest about a widespread bias) white. With those as the elements to consider, would we deem them representative of someone who is the principal in a conspiracy to murder us in the street? Compared to what is seen in mass-media reporting, it would not appear so. It simply seems inconceivable, even impossible, that someone with no common threat markers, and several we would typically find exclusionary from high-risk categories, might be acting against our very lives.

But if the current charges are to be believed, the pictured offender did indeed coolly arrange the ambush murder of a friend, an execution that only failed because of her co-conspirator’s inaccurate rifle shot. Moreover, she was facing drug charges in another case, perhaps unrelated, at the time of this alleged offense and has yet to be captured by the police despite being actively sought in several jurisdictions. Demographics are not destiny, we are told, and neither should they drive threat assessment and behavior prediction.

This case points out that the surface features of appearance can often blind us to the Violent Criminal Actor beneath. Deceived by our own preconceptions, we might be convinced to allow her closer than we would someone who better fits our internal version of the part, and we might pay a dear price indeed for our unexplored bias. Behavior and demeanor often reveal true purposes; looks seldom do the same. As ever, thank you for reading!

#thinkhardtrainhard #bedangerous #aprillriskconsulting

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3 Responses to “They Are Not You: Preconceptions as Deadly Misconceptions”

  1. William Wade

    Too many fall victim because of preconceived notions based on a persons looks and even charm. Serial killers have often relied on this to easily overtake their victims. I’m a retired cop and we had a serial killer who, even though was a black man, was able to charm his way into victims trust. He slaughtered numerous women because of their trust before he was finally caught. Almost all of his victims were white, good looking, well to do women. My point is, one cannot trust anyone based on perception! Trust no one but yourself and never get caught off guard.

  2. Michael

    This anecdote is about a planned murder of a friend, not street violence. There are white female serial killers, black spree shooters, and Asian dolts who do poorly in school, but that isn't the way to bet. Despite what the PC morons say, profiling is important too. Some strangers are more likely to be threat than others. Street survival requires careful selection of where you go. If it's a "bad part of town" don't go there! Public places in particular require training, situational awareness, trusting your gut, and ultimately as the old joke says, if necessary, being prepared to kill everyone you meet.

  3. Jesse

    What does a killer Alcoholic or drug addict look like.LOOK IN THE MIRROR. Pay attention, words can distract, a handsome face or beauty of face and body is a lie. Read , the Gift of Fear. We ALL have survival instincts. Pay attention to them. They are often right.