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The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates

The city’s drop in crime has been nothing short of miraculous. Here’s what’s behind the unbelievable numbers:

Unfortunately for all concerned, January 2013 could not have started out worse. Five people were murdered in Chicago on New Year’s Day. The number hit 17 by the end of the first full week. “This is too much,” Al Wysinger, the police department’s first deputy superintendent, told the crowd in the January 17 CompStat meeting, according to a memo summarizing it. “Last October and November, I kept saying we have to start 2013 off on the right foot. Wrong foot! We can’t reiterate this much clearer.”

PUBLISHED: April 7, 2014
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6980 words)

The Paramedic Murderer of Narrowsburg, N.Y.

A true crime story in a small town:

“He was gonna do this and save the children,” she testified. “I don’t remember exactly the conversation. He had me convinced that Catherine was the bad guy and he was the good parent and his kids were abused and his kids were miserable and we need to save the kids.”

“Did he tell you anything about what he needed to do about Catherine before Dec. 12?” the district attorney asked her.

“That he needed to kill her.”

PUBLISHED: April 1, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4722 words)

Medellín: Latin America’s New Superstar

How Medellín went from crime-ridden cocaine capital to one of the world's most innovative cities:

The Medellín Cartel, headed by Pablo Escobar, perhaps the only drug lord to become a worldwide household name, transported billions of dollars worth of cocaine, which had surpassed coffee as Colombia’s leading export by 1982. Arriving on U.S. shores, the exploits of cocaine cowboys made Miami the murder capital of the world in the early ’80s, an ignominious title Medellín itself stole in 1991, when it topped out at 381 murders per 100,000 residents, 40 times what the United Nations considers “epidemic.” That rate, if translated to New York

SOURCE:Next City
PUBLISHED: March 31, 2014
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2363 words)

A Family, a Fire and the Aftermath

Grant Cunningham’s violent death ricocheted over 18 years in the final fate of his brother Blair:

The air was cool and damp, the temperature hovering above zero but feeling colder, the last bite of winter pushing back against the warm spring sun. By the last Saturday in March, 2013, Blair Cunningham had moved into a new apartment. His mother helped him set up the place, and it was sparsely furnished with her extra towels and linens, an old coffee maker and a TV, a bed she bought for him. He was back in the old neighbourhood in Mill Woods, living just down the street from where he grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s, when his brother and his dad were still alive; a time before Blair knew about murder and justice.

PUBLISHED: March 29, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3783 words)

The Murders at the Lake

In 1982 three teenagers were found savagely stabbed to death by a lake in Waco, Texas. Four men were found guilty and two were sentenced to death. Were they guilty? Michael Hall spent one year reporting this five-parts series for Texas Monthly:

This story examines the case through the viewpoint of five people: a patrol sergeant who investigated the crime; a police detective who became skeptical of the investigation; an appellate lawyer who tried to stop the execution; a journalist whose reporting has raised new doubts about the case; and a convict who pleaded guilty but now vehemently proclaims his innocence.

PUBLISHED: March 28, 2014
LENGTH: 99 minutes (24844 words)

Loving the Opera in HD

Once controversial, Metropolitan Opera broadcasts for movie-theater audiences have become a gateway for new (and returning) fans:

A few years ago, I attended a Met production of Verdi’s Macbeth. Despite superb singing, the production felt disjointed, as if it could not contain both a medieval thane with tragic ambition and a 19th-century composer sounding an impassioned call for a united Italy. Lady Macbeth went mad and danced on chairs, but I was more aware of her bravura than her metastasizing guilt. It happened that my brother took my mother to the Met that afternoon, too, at a movie theater in Northern Virginia. They paid $24 apiece for their tickets; my seats had cost a couple of hundred dollars each. Afterward, I called my brother. “It was one of the greatest operas I’ve ever seen!” he exclaimed. “Did you see Macduff, when he read the letter telling him that his family has been murdered? He had tears in his eyes!” Well, no. I couldn’t see any tears. I was in the first ring, far from the stage. My brother was talking as if he had been to a different opera.

PUBLISHED: March 21, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2913 words)

Gold in the Mud

The Twisted Saga of Jailhouse Boxer James Scott's Battle for Redemption:

Prison inmate No. 57735, accused of murder and serving a 30-40 year stretch inside Rahway State Prison for armed robbery, introduced himself in a letter to reporter Beth Schenerman at The New York Times on Dec. 17, 1978, writing, in a rare moment of understatement, "This is a unique story." After returning to prison three years earlier, the former professional boxer had long since been recognized as one of the most feared and dangerous of the 1,150 inmates then living behind the walls of New Jersey's most notorious maximum-security prison, a place journalist Ralph Wiley described "as if the world had dropped the sum of its sores into one of New Jersey's gritty smokestacks, then chose not to watch as the results of the experiment filtered down into place."

PUBLISHED: March 12, 2014
LENGTH: 37 minutes (9381 words)

The Story of the Kitty Genovese Story

Nicholas Lemann looks at the implications of the media’s coverage of the Kitty Genovese story:

An excellent example is the murder of Kitty Genovese, a twenty-eight-year-old bar manager, by Winston Moseley, a twenty-nine-year-old computer punch-card operator, just after three in the morning on Friday, March 13, 1964, in Kew Gardens, Queens. The fact that this crime, one of six hundred and thirty-six murders in New York City that year, became an American obsession—condemned by mayors and Presidents, puzzled over by academics and theologians, studied in freshman psychology courses, re-created in dozens of research experiments, even used four decades later to justify the Iraq war—can be attributed to the influence of one man, A. M. Rosenthal, of the New York Times.

PUBLISHED: March 10, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3347 words)

The Murders Before the Marathon

A triple murder investigation led by the FBI is potentially linked to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Clandestine actions by the FBI leave friends and family members linked to the suspect with more questions, and a community is left wondering: Could solving this case have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings?

Anonymous FBI sources gave numerous accounts of Ibragim’s death to the press, managing to be both vague and contradictory. The agency claimed that, just before being shot, Ibragim had been sitting at a table, about to write a statement that would implicate both himself and Tamerlan in the Waltham murders. In some reports, he lunged at an FBI agent with a knife, while others said he used a pole or a broomstick. It was an agonizing development: The FBI claimed he had been killed at precisely the moment he was about to give the answers so many of us had been waiting for.

Whatever occurred in Ibragim’s apartment the night he was shot dead, his death put the FBI on the defensive. The agency quashed the coroner’s report, leading media outlets and the American Civil Liberties Union to call for an independent investigation. On its editorial page, the Globe declared that “the agency’s credibility is on the line” due to its lack of accountability in Ibragim’s death. Ibragim’s father accused the agency of “premeditated murder” and released photos of his son’s bullet-ridden corpse, showing that he’d been shot in the top of the head—even though the FBI contended that one of its agents had fired in self-defense. Instead of providing answers, the FBI’s investigation of Ibragim had turned into a sudden dead end.

PUBLISHED: March 1, 2014
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8130 words)