The Ghost Cop of Rowan Oak

by Deanna Kreisel [Doctor Waffle Blog]

The other day, over cigarettes and beer, my friend M. told me the story of the Ghost Cop of Rowan Oak. She was speaking from authority, as she had just encountered it a few days before. Her boyfriend P. was there—both at Rowan Oak and on my front porch with the cigarettes and the beer—and it was nice to watch them swing on the swing and finish each other’s sentences.

It had all started innocently enough: the two of them had decided to take their dogs C. and Z.[1] on a late-night stroll through M.’s neighborhood, which happens to contain a large antebellum estate known as Rowan Oak. For the benefit of the 99.999% of this publication’s readers who do not live in Oxford, Mississippi: this particular large antebellum estate was home to William Faulkner from 1930 to the time of his death. For the benefit of the 0.001% of this publication’s readers who do not know who that is: William Faulkner was one of the greatest American novelists of the twentieth century, an early practitioner of the subgenre that came to be known as “Southern Gothic,” and a lifelong resident of Oxford who wrote about the town and surrounding area (fictionalized as “Yoknapatawpha County”) in 16 novels and over 50 short stories.

So M. and P. were strolling the other night with her tiny adorable dog and his larger adorable dog, enjoying the delicious bosky springtime air, when they made the fateful decision to extend their walk to the grounds of Faulkner’s estate. They were chatting away when they passed the invisible property line, at which point they were immediately assaulted by a brilliant search light splitting the darkness. A disembodied voice—they couldn’t see the speaker, since he hovered in the dark behind the light—demanded to know what they were doing on the grounds of the estate, which was closed for the night. [N.B. there was no Hours of Operation indication at the time, although a brand-new sign has since mysteriously appeared right on that spot.] M. and P. apologized profusely and were backing away from the bright light in their eyes when the voice went on: “You know, there are a lot of good reasons not to walk around this place at night. I mean … I’ve heard stories.”

P. was pretty sure he wanted to get out of there immediately, but M. was now intrigued. “Oh? Like what?” Read more »

Who Can Afford to Call 911?

by Olivia Zhu

As I wrote in a post back in June, reporting bias is a phenomenon that significantly detracts from the efficacy of potential predictive policing measures. Simply put, if underserved communities don’t trust the police and are less likely to report crime as a result, the resulting data is incomplete, inaccurate, and therefore useless when considering measures such as hotspot analysis or setting new patrol routes. This month, I’d like to explore a particular reason why underreporting of crime might occur, with a particular focus on socioeconomic factors that drive who can or is willing to call 911. PSAP_wide

It’s easy to make two major assumptions about 911. First, that 911 services are free, or at least are public services paid for by taxpayer money. And second, that they are consistent across the nation. After all, there’s a whole alphabet soup of government agencies that establish standards and rules for dialing 911, among them the Federal Communications Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Consider also organizations such as the National Emergency Number Association and any number of police, fire, and emergency medical service professional organizations to increase oversight and regulation of the service.

The first assumption is proven false by the fact that most states charge a 911 service fee. In theory, fees such as these feed into a Universal Service Fund intended to normalize 911 service across a coverage area, thereby reducing socioeconomic effects. However, the FCC collects this fee from mobile service providers, and while the “FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to you… service providers are allowed to do so.” That’s just for standard 911 calls. For Enhanced 911 (E911) calls, which provide latitude and longitude data for callers using cell phones instead of land lines, service providers may charge a fee as well. E911 calls are especially important given that most 911 calls today are made from mobile phones, not land lines, and without E911, it’s difficult for first responders to accurately locate callers. Let me add onto that.

Read more »