Sunday, March 25, 2007

Homicide: Life on the Street

I love detective stories. Good detective stories. I think it started with an old Sherlock Holmes movie starring Basil Rathbone, which led me to read A. Conan Doyle's series of short story masterpieces. There have always been tv shows about detectives but my all-time favorite is Homicide: Life on the Street which ran from 1993 to 1999. Last fall the "collection to die for" was released on DVD at a bargain price, all six seasons, the final wrap-up movie, and extras neatly enclosed in a grey facsimile filing cabinet. Since McKinney is pretty far from the main broadcasting antennas in Cedar Hill I'm no longer able to get good regular tv reception and since I'm too cheap to purchase cable, I bought myself the set of Homicide DVD's so I could have something good to watch during my weekend down time. It's been money well spent.

Because of my work schedule I didn't even know about this show until it was well into its 3rd season. Last night I watched what I think was my first exposure to the show: "Cradle to Grave" in which Munch & Lewis investigate the death of a motorcycle gang member. I originally came in at the end of the episode in which two long lines of motorcyclists twine among the crosses and headstones of a cemetery to bury their comrade and Lewis, the only non-white person in the scene, makes his way through the gang to deposit the framed photo of a little girl onto the dead man's coffin, while Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders belt "I'll Stand by You" in the background. I didn't know what the scene meant, but I was intrigued. Later I caught a nearly complete episode with Lewis and his new partner Kellerman, and I was hooked.

When I got this collection I also began reading again my well-handled copy of David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets the story of the year he spent with the Baltimore Homicide Unit in 1988, and the basis for the Homicide tv show. Reading this book gives a lot of insight into what the Baltimore detectives have to deal with. That year there were 234 homicides in Baltimore, and in the next two there were 567. I've long thought of Dallas as a dangerous city, but in checking some reports, the most reported homicides in a single year was only slightly more than 200. According to the Morgan Quitno Awards site Baltimore is consistently rated as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. For 2006 it was #2 while Dallas was #6 in cities of more than 500,000. They're close together on the list but when you compare the RATE of homicide, what a chasm between the two. The national homicide average is 5.7 percent (of what I'm not sure :). Dallas is much higher at 18.4 percent, but Baltimore is a whopping 41.9 percent, sandwiched right between Washington DC and Detroit. Suddenly Dallas looks a lot safer and I feel much for the war-weary homicide police of Baltimore. You go, detectives!

You can find some statistics for some major cities at InfoPlease.

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