I believe I have made it abundantly clear that I am not a local –– neither to Northeast Ohio nor the state itself. No matter how hard I try to mask my southern twang it always slips, and my hillbilly sense of morality is present in most, if not all, of my decisions. I bleed Mountain Dew and have lungs misted with coal dust. I would not necessarily say that I am a proud West Virginian, but I do not shun away from it either. Albeit, I prefer the hustle and bustle of city life in Cleveland. However, there are some aspects of the mountain state I prefer.
To me, Cleveland has adopted and adapted to what I call a “kill climate.” I constantly get news alerts on my phones of shootings, murders, robberies, rapes and other heinous crimes happening in the area. Yet, no one seems to bat an eye at these stories flooding in. I show my peers and classmates the stories hoping to probe a response but receive no stimuli; no one cares about the death happening just miles or even blocks away. It seems as if everyone is numb to the tragedy striking their fellow Clevelanders.
Cleveland is also notorious for the murderers and serial killers it has birthed and probably still harbors. The Cleveland torso murderer, Ariel Castro, Anthony Sowell, even the city’s close proximity to Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood town all show that Cleveland lives up to its reputation as the serial killer capital of America. A myriad of both solved and unsolved cases have littered the region and a multitude of killers have traveled through the Guardian’s threshold. Although I am a true crime junkie, my blood still runs cold thinking of how many Netflix documentaries can be made regarding the homicides that happen in the municipality.
This is starkly different from the environment I grew up in. The most treacherous tale we have is that of Mothman or The Flatwoods Monster. When a vicious felony happens, gossip and fear spreads across the community like a virus. Bake sales are held for funeral costs and the news stories are passed around on Facebook like trading cards. I remember someone from my high school was shot by a drug dealer and we held a week of mourning.
But, I see the same story in The Plaindealer and it receives no traction. Does wrongful death not get clicks anymore? Does no one care? Or maybe there is just too much crime to even distinguish one case from another so it is best to just ignore the media entirely.
That has been the theory I have held since I first arrived on campus in August. According to Neighborhood Scout, a crime reporting website, Cleveland experiences over 22,907 crimes annually; that is more than 62 crimes per day. Over 25% of those offenses are deemed violent (killings, robberies, etc). In my hometown, there are only 1,095 crimes committed per year and only 15% of them are violent. However, Beckley is still considered less safe than Cleveland; the crime rate for Cleveland is 60% per 100 residents while Beckley’s is 68%. So, why do heads turn more in my small hick town when something bad happens? Why does my small town care so much when crime happens; shouldn’t we all be used to it?
I believe the answer to this anomaly lies within population density: the more people the more death just seems commonplace. I crunched the numbers. While it seems Beckley has more crime, it turns out only three notable offenses happen per day. When compared to the 62 per day number Cleveland displays, I can see why people may become acclimated to crimes. The more people there are, the less a city cares if someone passes.
Cleveland has seen it all when it comes to ghastliness. I do not think the town can find a unique way to observe slaughter because every kind of case imaginable has happened in this city. Nothing is new to the police department nor the media, so the citizens are not surprised either, and no eyebrows are raised.
This trend holds true for the majority of cities, the more people there are the more people will hurt each other. Those around feel they must simply get used to it because it will never change.
I wonder often if I will become accustomed to the kill climate as those around me have. The longer I go to college in the city might mean the less I care about the scary stories in the news. I will probably disassociate from these stories more and more because it will be a survival tactic. I can not pluck at the emotions that frame these cautionary tales when they happen thirty times more often in my new environment. It would probably cause me to become emotionally destitute.
So, like my classmates, I feel like I must become emotionally sullen when it comes to these reports. Why should I care about this murder when another one is bound to happen by the end of the week.