Back in one of my posts from spring of 2012, I told you about Maine’s ranking as the most peaceful state in the nation, an honor we had also received in 2011. Five criteria are used by the Institute for Economics and Peace to make their determination: the number of homicides per 100,000 people; number of violent crimes; incarceration rate; number of police employees; and availability of small arms.
It appears the group didn’t do a peace index in 2013, but if they did, Maine would still fare very well. With peace defined by the Institute as “the absence of violence,” it’s not hard to understand why Maine takes top honors. According to 2013 data from the FBI, we’re the safest state in the nation, with 122 violent crimes per 100,000. Compare that to Tennessee, the state with the highest violent crime rate (643 per 100,000) and you can understand why few people lock their homes or cars.
And yet… we do have crime in Maine, as Gerry’s post on Monday about the two-year anniversary of the disappearance of little Ayla Reynolds reminds us. As I said back in 2012, when crime does strike here, it hits particularly hard, because we are a state of tightly knit communities.
Vicki Doudera here. I was thinking about crime in Maine the other day when the memory of a boy roughly the same age as my daughter popped into my head. They had been in a cooperative preschool together some fifteen years ago, and I knew his mother from volunteering, and his grandparents from church and community activities.
In 2000, a year when Maine experienced a record low number of homicides, the boy’s mother was fatally shot by her boyfriend, who then turned the gun on himself. I will never forget this murder-suicide, not only because of its shocking effect on our community, or because I knew both the victim and her family, but because I knew the perpetrator as well. He’d done odd jobs for us over the years and was someone I greeted on the street, said hello, and whatnot. I had no idea that this good looking man who drove a flashy sports car was abusive or violent.
The ripples from a crime so heinous spread out and lessen but never quite disappear. A young police officer who was first at the crime scene back in 2000 has publically suffered his own demons this year. Who can say if the shock of that crime thirteen years ago is still having effects on him? I know it still makes my throat dry. And I suspect I am not the only one.
As often happens to me in this small town, I thought about that little boy the other day, as well as the crime that made him motherless, and then ran into his grandmother outside a thrift shop that very afternoon. She told me that he graduates from high school this spring. We didn’t speak of anything else, but I could feel it there, lurking beneath the surface like a poisonous eel.
According to a 2007 domestic violence report from the office of the Maine Attorney General, there are more than 30,000 adult victims of domestic/dating violence incidents in Maine each year. In 2012, 11 of the 25 homicides committed in Maine were related to domestic abuse.
I pray for peace, especially this time of year, and if peace means all of us crime writers have to invent our stories without gleaning “inspiration” from real crimes, so be it. In the meantime, I will be making a donation to New Hope for Women, an organization offering support to people affected by domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in four Maine counties: Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo Counties.
I will make my gift with that little boy and his mother in mind. Please join me if you’d like.