Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Down time

A travel weather nightmare has turned my one-night trip to Virginia Tech into an odyssey taking me to five airports in the past 24 hours. Detroit gets my award for the nicest. Chicago's O'Hare retains the title of my least-favorite. I'm now in Minneapolis, and the prospects are improving for a flight home. With some down time to use, I thought I would catch up on some report reading.

I noticed a very unusual phenomenon in the police reports from Sunday. We handled four death investigations on December 9, of which three were apparent suicides. These are always time consuming investigations, and this made an incredibly busy day for our investigations team. Overall this year, we have investigated 30 suicides, so three on one day is more than we would typically have in a month.

I recalled hearing some commentator on the news in the past few days talking about seasonal depression, and asserting that suicide peaks during the winter holiday season. I wondered about that, and as regular readers know, I have a penchant for actually putting the "common knowledge" to the test. So, here's five years of suicides in Lincoln, by the month in which they occurred:


That would tend to debunk the conventional wisdom, and indicate that last Sunday was just an especially peculiar day--from a statistical standpoint. But the overall number was small, so I decided to look at the much larger number of both successful and attempted suicides. Five years yeilds 1,675 of these cases, and here's how they look by month:


So, our data would show that August, rather than the winter holidays, is the peak time for suicide and attempts. After finding this in our own data, I also discovered with a little Google research that I'm not the first one to debunk the myth.

Time to go check the departure monitors and see if I'm depressed.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

good luck chief!
at least you're out of o'hare, the pits of airports!

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting you be put on suicide watch?

Anonymous said...

The Detroit airport IS pretty nice - I like the connecting tunnel with the light and music show. I was stuck there for 26 hours last Feb., so am glad it was the Detroit airport and not somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

..he'd only be on suicide watch if he ws sitting in an airport and didn't have access to the internet.. Besides, it's not August.

ed359 said...

Chief you are not depressed, don't worry about August, just relax. When in an airport, any airport, read to relax and escape. I suggest Louis L'Amour. Don't judge, just try him.

Anonymous said...

Look at the bright side to being stuck in Detroit - that you're on your way out of town, and don't live there! You could do some stats digging and marvel at the difference in crime rates between Detroit and the nearly-adjacent town of Livonia, less than 20 miles away.

Tom Casady said...

Thanks for all the therapy, I made it home Tuesday PM. Didn't seem that bad here, but I guess they still had the backlog from Monday to clear out on a limited number of flights.

Tom Casady said...

By the way, the link that anonymous 3:10 embedded in his/her comment is a good one. This is one of the nicer crime rate comparison sites I've seen.

I often need to obtain such comparisons, which I do by downloading the raw data from the FBI and cooking it myself in a series of spreadsheets. But for the simple task of comparing one city to another, this is hard to beat.

Anonymous said...

That is a handy site, with the caveat that, as usual with any crime rate stats, the murder rates and possibly the auto theft rates are the only rates you can fully trust, as you've addressed before. When the murder rate goes up, the reliability of the larceny, rape, residential burglary, and residential robbery rates all go down.

The other crimes happen, of course, and usually with proportional frequency, but it seems to be the general rule that when a city's murder rate is high, a lot of those other crimes often aren't reported. The citizenry perhaps has less faith in law enforcement, or they possibly just accept being pummeled by crime to as "just the way things are".

If I wasn't so lazy, I'd like to see if one or more equations could be derived, into which you'd plug the murder rate, city population, demographics, and a few other critical items, and it would spit out the approximate actual rate of the other crimes, not the "these got reported" rates.

Anonymous said...

Its amazing how police and penguins are much alike.


http://www.penguinscience.com/