6 Myths About Crime You Believe Thanks To Hollywood
As much as we all agree that crime is just, like, the worst, there's still something romantic about being an outlaw -- hell, most beloved TV shows out there star soulless, piece-of-shit lowlifes like gangsters, drug dealers, and Alf. There's a part of us that admires those who boldly break the rules set by The Man and live their lives any goddamn way they want, the way our forefathers intended. Well, before you quit your job at Kinko's to go all Thelma & Louise, we should clear up a few misconceptions for you ...
Most Serial Killers Are Dumber Than Average People
If there's anything we know about serial killers, it's that a) they're always smarter than everyone around them and b) the only thing more disappointing than their behavior is their series finale. The whole genius part isn't all that surprising; murder is a relatively difficult crime to get away with, what with dead bodies presenting something of a red flag to the average passerby. To be able to get away with it over and over again and outwit detectives who do nothing but track killers for a living, surely these serial killers must be on the upper end of the brain scale, right?
"It's pronounced Sartre, actually."
Nope, not really: A study of over 2,600 serial killers found that they were no smarter than your everyday idiot, with an average IQ of 94.7. This makes a lot of sense when you consider how the most famous ones got caught: Charles Manson was found hiding under a sink. John Wayne Gacy voluntarily went through a Secret Service background check to get a photo taken with the First Lady, and miraculously passed it ... only to later get smashed and confess to his lawyer. The BTK killer was arrested after believing police when they said they couldn't trace a floppy disk. Jeffrey Dahmer was discovered because he left Polaroids of his murders lying around his house. Ted Bundy escaped twice, but that also means he got caught three times (stupidly on each occasion). And so on. Even Assassin's Creed players know to keep their head down after they've stabbed someone in the throat.
Maybe Dexter is more realistic than we thought.
So, how do these dopes manage to kill over and over again when so many murderers are caught on the first try? Well, most murders are committed by people the victim knows, so police can usually narrow the list of suspects down pretty quickly (it's usually people's spouses, or their butlers). Since serial killers tend to be random in their choice of victims, it makes it much harder to connect a person with the crime. Some are actually caught when they themselves start giving evidence to the police, in an effort to taunt them. Again: dopes.
The one exception to the intelligence thing appears to be serial killers who use bombs. They actually tallied an average IQ of 140, because working with explosives and fuses apparently requires a little bit of know-how. In short, don't worry about the creepy, brainy kid who keeps lighting pentagrams on your lawn, but keep an eye on the one who keeps stealing your egg timers.
Hitmen Are Usually Regular Schlubs
If the criminal underworld was a high school, hitmen would be the star quarterback. Brilliant, precise, lethal, and always well-dressed, hitmen reign supreme. Just look at Leon, Agent 47, Jules and Vincent, or even Mr. and Mrs. Smith -- all of them are masters of their craft and look cool doing it.
This lesser-known British one is kinda neat too, we guess.
Of course, the reason movies make them look so awesome is to make up for the fact that the reality is so utterly boring. A U.K. study of hitmen showed that the stereotype of the suit-wearing, surgical, master assassin is far from the truth. Most hitmen are average Joes (apart from killing people for money) with fewer assassin skills than the average Blood Money player.
Movies portray contract killers as jet-setting off to exotic locales to ply their trade, but in truth, hitmen are usually first-time, local individuals who are so hard up for money they can't even leave the area after the kill. Incidentally, they also get caught a lot. Instead of killing for political motives or as a part of a vast conspiracy, most of their contracts are for dull stuff like life insurance payouts and bad business deals. And since most hitmen are rookies who are hired opportunistically, their wet work tends to be correspondingly shoddy, like the Jamaican killer who accepted a contract but didn't go through with it because he decided the victim was rather nice.
The most experienced hitman in the study only had six kills under his belt. Another pair of would-be assassins boldly walked into a bar and opened fire on their targets, only for the bar patrons to shoot back, killing both of them.
Which makes The Simpsons the most accurate thing here.
In other words, it's less like the opening scene from Wanted and more like the Three Stooges trying to bake a cake.
But at least the money is good, right? Well, the average hit was contracted for $25,000, but it turns out the type of person who will hire a hitman also tends to be the type who will stiff you on the bill, because the average payout is only $5,400. You'd be better off robbing a bank. Which isn't saying much, either ...
Bank Robberies Have Extremely Low Payouts
If you really want to make it in crime, everybody knows, the bank is where the big bucks are. Literally. The banks are practically asking for it -- lots of cash, minimal security, and tellers that are trained to just give the cash without hesitation instead of getting shot or beaten with a baseball bat, as is wont to happen at a liquor store. And, in the end, you've got enough cash that you can retire to a Tuscan villa with your new wife Camilla, with whom you will run a winery.
But before you go pulling nylons over your head, you should probably check the Department Of Justice statistics. You see, while it's cool to watch The Joker, De Niro, or Affleck take banks for hundreds of thousands of dollars stuffed into duffel bags, the reality is that you're likely to walk away with only enough money to buy a decent Camry and a nice steak dinner -- if you're lucky. In 2010, bank robberies netted an average of $7,500, which is hardly "take a dump on your boss' desk" money. Oh, and there's a roughly 25 percent chance your ass will get caught.
Then you get $0.
Unlike in Hollywood movies, where the banks just leave mounds of cash strewn all over the vault like they're Scrooge McDuck, in real life the cash is actually locked up and requires a complicated authentication process (the sort usually reserved for launching nuclear missiles or opting out of LinkedIn spam) to retrieve it. Since you're under the gun, as it were, and don't have time to dick around with managers and keys before the cops show up, you get what's in the teller's drawer, which is a few thousand bucks.
"Uh, I can give you a pen ... wait, no, it's chained. How about a coaster with our logo?"
If you really want to make a living robbing banks, then stick to armored trucks. According to DOJ statistics, while bank robbers walked away with less money than if they'd just sold their getaway car, those ballsy individuals who managed to boost an armored truck had an average payday of $325,000 and fewer than 10 percent of the individuals were ever caught (plus, car chases are way cooler anyway).
DISCLAIMER: Cracked.com does not condone felony robbery, unless you pull it off, in which case we get a cut.
Smuggling Goes Way Beyond Guns And Drugs
If you've watched any crime drama like Sons Of Anarchy or The Wire, then you know that the only things people ever smuggle are drugs, guns, or drugs hidden inside guns. Even Han Solo, with a whole galaxy of illegal, interspecies super porn to be delivered to the hands of trillions of furiously masturbating perverts, chose to smuggle space pot (you're not fooling anyone with that "spice" stuff, Lucas). The reason is obvious: Mo' danger, mo' money, right?
Actually, the market for counterfeit products (including the money coming from pirated digital material) is worth a Tony Stark-dwarfing $650 billion, which is way more than the global drug trade. And, even better, it's a lot safer, since a) few people are going to get into shootouts over a few kilos of Faux-kley sunglasses, and b) there's less risk from cops, because, despite our best training, we still can't get German shepherds to recognize the difference between authentic and fraudulent Gucci bags.
"From now on we're just smuggling Brazilian birds and knockoff Chinese Fleshlights."
But products for people who lack the money to be authentically shallow and materialistic are not the only thing being smuggled. If your dog or cat food has fish in it, there's a chance it was illegally caught in Indonesia, where nearly half of the world's illegal fishing is done. And for a double super bonus dose of guilt, the illegal fishing industry is a big vector for human trafficking. The fish that are usually caught are small and not worth much money so, in order to keep costs down, the companies resort to the oldest stand-by in business: paying your workers jack shit. Many of the fishermen are slaves who endure horrendous living conditions, which include being locked in the ship's hold with rotting fish, getting thrown overboard, or being fucking beheaded if they get too uppity.
Did you also know that there's a huge market for illegal wood? No, not counterfeit Viagra: We're talking actual trees. While the trafficking and importation of exotic animals grabs headlines and Twitter hashtags, the global wildlife trade is estimated to be just south of $20 billion a year. Compare that to the black-market timber industry, which nets a cool $100 billion. Those clandestinely cut-down forests end up going to companies like Gibson, who was raided in 2008 for buying illegal "tone woods" for use in their instruments -- all so you could leave that guitar casually laying around during dates and then never touch it again. Still, as big as the illegal timber industry is, it's hard to get anyone to care. Trees just aren't as sexy and won't garner as much sympathy when they're killed, which makes it hard for police departments real or fictional to secure funding for forestry crime divisions.
"They call it 'Woody Woodpeckering.' You get naked, steal someone's lumber,
then flash them your woody while you do the laugh."
You're Picturing Immigrant Crime All Wrong
America is like an exclusive nightclub, and other countries are the creepy guys sneaking in without paying, starting fights, and trying to get fresh with our girlfriends (and jobs). And by other countries, we mean mostly Mexico. As our leading comb-over-in-chief candidate has been all too happy to remind us, Mexico's chief U.S. export is apparently killers and rapists -- but, then again, with all the Game Of Thrones-esque shenanigans the cartels are pulling just south of the border, is it really that surprising that illegal immigrants bring crime with them?
Yes, yes it is, because first-generation immigrants (including illegal ones) are actually 45 percent less likely to commit a crime than our own home-grown hooligans. Border cities with higher rates of illegal immigration have lower crime rates than the national average, a trend that extends back well before we started beefing up border security. In fact, the more immigrants come to crash on Uncle Sam's couch, the more crime seems to drop.
"Fuck you guys, I'm going to deport Grimace now."
This applies to all nationalities, but "especially for Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans." Of course, this isn't to say there aren't dangerous foreign gangs operating in America; they're just not coming from where you probably assumed. These days, organized crime is a much more diverse industry, with gangs coming from Russia, West Africa, and Armenia. And just like the transition from hereditary monarchy to democracy, gangs have realized that dividing things along blood lines is silly as hell. The new gangs actually operate very similarly to GTA Online, where the Russians might hook up with Somalians to do a job, split the loot, and then go do their own thing until the next heist comes around.
Pictured: "Their own thing," probably.
Don't imagine a bunch of guys in track suits beating up prostitutes for $50, though: These new gangs have brought a more advanced and refined brand of criminal. Armenian Power, a large gang operated in L.A., was dismissed as a regular street gang until an investigation following a shootout discovered that they cleared $20 million by performing several flavors of sophisticated white-collar crime.
You be sure to tell those Mexicans working for sub-minimum wage about how they're destroying America, though.
Sex Trafficking Also Happens In The U.S.
Human trafficking is one of the most awful and horrific crimes imaginable. People, particularly young women and girls, are kidnapped from underdeveloped countries and sold into various forms of unthinkable slavery. Why can't those places get their shit together? Like this hellhole of human misery, for instance:
Yeah, we didn't get Georgia the state and Georgia the country mixed up -- Atlanta is a popular city for sex trafficking because they have the busiest airport in the world, and it's kinda hard to keep track of things like where everyone's luggage ended up or who's having sex with children and then flying away. America's reputation as the land of opportunity is exactly what makes it one of the top locations for that type of enterprise. Someone who has grown up in horrifying poverty is very easily tempted by the promise of a crappy minimum-wage job in the glamorous West, only to find out the job is to be a modern-day slave.
And many trafficking victims come from within the U.S. itself. The FBI estimates that about 100,000 young women and girls are trafficked through the U.S. and only about half come from other countries. The rest are kidnapped right in our backyard. Immigrants who are poor, uneducated, and terrified of being deported are more likely to trust any asshole that promises a good job, just because he speaks her language.
Taken Cuatro: Se Habla Espanol
But American citizens can also end up forced into prostitution -- The National Center For Missing & Exploited Children estimates that about one in six abducted children end up in sex trafficking. So before Liam Neeson sets to cleaning up Paris, maybe he ought to spend a few weeks going all Taken in the Peach State.
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