Child, Teen Killings By Strangers Rare, But Traumatic For Public


Whenever a child is ambushed and killed by a stranger in San Diego County – a dozen horrific cases in the past 15 years – people commonly say, “We never thought it would happen here.” The San Diego Union-Tribune says that Rancho Bernardo, home to the park where Chelsea King was killed, had only one murder and four rapes last year. Statistics are no match for emotion in the area, which still is haunted by the high-profile homicides of two other girls. “Even though you have a far greater chance of being killed in a car crash than you do of being a victim of violent crime, when it happens, it's extremely tragic and leaves a wound in your community,” said Denise Paquette Boots, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It shatters your sense of well-being.”

Getting that back takes time, said Boots and others who have studied the impact of traumatic crimes. “What you're going to see is women are going to be much more circumspect about where they go, especially when they're alone,” said James Monahan, an associate professor in criminal justice at the University of New Haven in Connecticut and a board-certified psychologist. “And you're going to see parents with a much shorter leash on their kids.” Boots said change isn't necessarily bad. “A lot of it is what we make of it,” she said. “There can actually be some positives. People looking out for each other more. Parents asking their kids more questions – not to invade their privacy, but to ensure their safety. And kids understanding that there's a reason for the questions.”

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