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Failure (and use) of imagination

Two years ago, when Jaycee Dugard was returned to her mother after 18 years of captivity, I blogged the question, Why did it take two almost-rookie campus cops to run a background check, followed by the guy practically turning himself in?


I think I've come up with an answer.


Women read mystery novels.
We read novels like Kiss the Girls, Gone But Not Forgotten, and In the Kingdom of Air.


We read these whether we're cops, judges, CEO's or SAHM's.


Men don't, not anywhere near as often. Especially male cops.


Male cops will watch the film versions, in which we see the crime taking place and later being solved, but they don't read the novels, which give history, backstory, interior monologues, and flashbacks that enable the reader to piece together the clues and signs that can give law-enforcement the "Ah-ha!" moment.  Without that, it's far less likely that someone will say "Yes, it's a nutty theory, but..." when someone suggests that a man like Philip Garrido could maybe have built a tent city, complete with utilities, and hidden three frightened young women in it?


Gavin DeBecker says, "Imagine what you believe is the worst thing anyone might ever do to another human being; imagine something worse than anything you've ever seen in a movie, or read about or heard about. Imagine something original...
   "Now, by virtue of the fact that you could conceive it, rest assured it has likely been done to someone, because everything that can be done by a human being to another human being has been done."


Failure of law-enforcement to discover Jaycee Dugard being hidden in plain sight was nothing less than failure of imagination. A neighbor looked out upon the tent city and the children therein, called the cops, and the person who came out to the house was thinking "Here's the house, here's the guy, looks pretty normal, I'm overdue for lunch, tent city, wtf, this is a little tract house and if kids were in tents, I'd hear them and they'd probably come running out, and I know what a house with kids looks like, if I file the report now I can get it in by deadline and clock out."  On another level, he's thinking Tent city, sounds like something my wife reads in one of those kooky novels she keeps under the bed, yeah, right...


The UC Berkeley cops, on the other hand, may well have recalled the "otherwise harmless-looking" guy as a character in something they'd read. They've probably also read Gavin DeBecker, who devotes several chapters to the difference between men and women in the stories and experiences they accumulate over the course of a lifetime with regard to the nature of violence.


It wasn't just "women's intuition," or even "mother's intuition" that put those two female cops on the trail.


It was reader's intuition.


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Side note: Pardon the erratic font sizes. Blogger is not being helpful.

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