Still in Perth, house sitting for another week. Time enough to finish this article that I'd been thinking about for a long time.
While travelling solo by bicycle, I’m often asked: “Aren’t you afraid?” My answer is:”No”, but, if feeling social, followed with “Afraid of what?”
Sometimes I get the vague “something happening”, but more often it’s a definite “someone like ...” :Ivan Milat, Peter Falconio or The Kimberly Killer.
My arguments that they’re examples that didn't target bicycle riders and that psychotic killers live in cities seldom sway. They’re just not convinced. After one such question, I resolved to track down just how much of a risk it is from the mad killer, so I could give a more accurate and informed counter response. Maybe with hard numbers on my side it would make a difference.
After looking at the numbers, a fairer response might be “Why aren’t you afraid?” While, not to deny that bad things can happen, and that a certain amount of personal responsibility is needed, the odds are overwhelming in favour of a lifetime of happy, safe and uneventful (from foul play) bicycle touring trips.
In case you're not familiar with the above examples offered:
Ivan Milat, perhaps the most infamous, having drawn international attention for killing seven (five international tourists, two locals) in the early 1990’s. He targeted hitch-hiking backpackers. Stopped, offered lifts, and once he had them in his vehicle, proceeded to attack.
Peter Falconio, a British tourist, is an odd one to be afraid of. I presume the fear is that something similar will occur. Peter is listed as presumed dead, following foul play in 2001 after the car he was a passenger in stopped late one night on the Stuart highway.
The Kimberly Killer, only heard from elderly retirees, was a case I wasn’t initially familiar with. Back in 1986, Joseph Schwab, a German tourist, flew to Australia, and killed five people for reasons unknown, before being killed himself by police.
None of them were targeting bicycle tourists. Though, the Kimberly Killer most meets the criteria of random killing of strangers. Someone, who if you met at the time, it would not be your lucky day. But one case, 27 years ago, is a long time ago to still be worried about it occurring today. Not a very good reason to hold back from going for a bike ride.
While the cases above made the news because of their international links, doubtless there are other homicides each year that don’t make the popular press. So to get an idea of how risky death by homicide is, we need to know who is being killed, how many people are killed each year, and where are they killed. Fortunately, all this information is freely available on the web.
Looking at the Australian Institute of Criminology, Homicide Victim-offender relationship stats 2006-7 we find:
36% - Friends/acquaintances
15% - Family
13% - Other (Includes work colleagues, employee/employer, former employee/employer, gang members, and former gang members)
10% - Intimates
25% - Strangers
2% - Unknown
You’re far more likely to be killed by someone you know than a total stranger. In 74% of homicides, the victim knew their killer.
But it's worse if you’re female. Take the guys out of the mix and people you know account for 94% of homicides.
Female victim and offender relationship
53% - intimates
21% - family
16% - friends/acquaintances
6% - strangers
4% - other (Includes work colleagues, employee/employer, former employee/employer, gang members, and former gang members)
Who said having a partner was good for safety?
Just to continue on to kids;
Child victim and offender relationship
69% - custodial parent
15% - non custodial parent
8% - Acquaintance
4% - close friend
4% - other relationship
Stranger doesn’t even make a significant category.
As you would expect, when family, friends and other people you know are trying to kill you. Where do they succeed:
Location of Homicide
61% - residential
24% - street/footpath
13% - other
2% - unknown
You feeling safe at home? With family, partner, or friends?
Keeping it in perspective: The number of Australian homicides in 2006-7 was: 298. Of that, 60 homicides were by strangers: 60 homicides out of 21 million Australians. And contrary to what it might seem like from the media, the number of homicides has been in decline since 1989., while the Australian population grew.
Consider that the death rate from homicides in 2006-07 was 1.3 per 100,000 people, while Road deaths in 2007-08 was 6.9 per 100,000 Afraid to be on the road? You're much more likely to be a road fatality then a homicide victim.
For more numbers and higher risk ratings, head over to the Australian Bureau of Statistics: Causes of Death in Australia. And have a browse. In 2010, the leading cause of death was Ischaemic heart disease: 21,708 followed by Cerebrovascular diseases: 11,204.
(Interesting: Prostate cancer 3235, Breast cancer 2864. Prostates are getting the bottom end of publicity compared to breasts.)
With the top killers, the risk can be reduced by healthy eating and exercise.
I’m not afraid. Rather than being afraid of a low risk event (homicide), pay attention to what has a higher risk status (health) and can be influenced.