Comic-Con, Danger By The Numbers

By | Tuesday, July 10, 2012 Leave a Comment
Earlier today, Gisela Gagliardi, a fan waiting in an advance line for Comic-Con's Twilight panel on Thursday, was accidentally struck and killed by a driver. A more complete story is here if you haven't heard the news yet. It should go without saying that it's a great tragedy when anyone is killed, and my condolences go out to her friends and family.

Two years ago, at the tail end of a Resident Evil panel, one fan attacked another over an issue surrounding seating. That's the (in)famous eye-stabbing incident. (Although, technically, the pen only glanced near the victim's eye.)

Now, let's check out some stats. For the past several years, Comic-Con's attendance has floated between 125,000 and 130,000 over the course of the five day event. That's about 1% of the population of San Diego, where the show is held. According to San Diego government stats, the annual crime rate per 1000 people are as follows:
Murder: 0.03
Rape: 0.22
Robbery: 1.11
Aggravated Assault: 2.53
That translates to roughly one murder every 1.3 weeks, one rape every day, one robbery every eight hours, and one aggravated assault every two and half hours. That's for the entire city. (I suspect it's actually the "greater San Diego area" but I don't know how exactly that might be defined.) That means for every one of those incidents, statistically speaking, there's a 1% chance of it happening in relation to Comic-Con.

Let's assume a full 24 hour cycle for each day. (Since many con-goers gather well outside the confines of the convention itself.) Five days times 24 hours in a day = 120 hours. Divide that by the 2.5 hours per possible assault, and you have 48 instances where one might occur. (Again, we've been talking all of San Diego so far.) Now if you take each of those 48 instances as having 1% chance of including an assault, you come up with .48 assaults per year at Comic-Con. (1% of 48.) Since half an assault (rounding up slightly) isn't realistic, let's say it's one assault every two years.

The same basic math applied to the other crimes comes up with... one robbery every seven years, one rape every 20 years, and one murder every 130 years.

Now there are plenty of caveats here. The crime rates, population and con attendance change from year to year. The crime rate stats are of reported crimes, not actual crimes. Comic-Con itself is probably not a perfect microcosm reflective of San Diego on the whole. And of course, I'm not a statistician and I'm doing some back-of-the-envelope math here.

But those numbers should provide a rough estimate of what we're looking at. There are almost certainly folks out there concerned about their safety between the two incidents I cited at the top of this piece. They might believe the convention's grown too large and it's becoming inherently unsafe. Statistically, though, I don't think there's too much to concern yourself with outside of whether or not you brought a comfortable enough pair of shoes.
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