Ceke2002

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Do you think it's possible for a city itself to have a disturbed enough psychological undercurrent that it becomes more likely that extreme crimes will take place there, or is something like this a case of academics et al perhaps reading too much into what may very well be a string of mere coincidences?

Some background to place the question into context: As most of you already know I live in Adelaide, South Australia - the official title for Adelaide is 'The City of Churches", unofficially it's known as 'The City of Corpses" and/or "The Serial Killer Capital of the Southern Hemisphere" (we've also been called the 'cruelest city in Australia' and nominated as 'the best place to set a horror movie' because of our rather notorious criminal history). Adelaide earned its reputation over a period of three to four decades that saw a number of child disappearances, murders, and serial killings take place - and just to top it off the serial killings themselves, of which there were three known separate incidents (Truro, The Butchered Boys aka 'The Family Murders', and Snowtown) were all sexually sadistic torture murders in nature.

Since at least the early 2000's things have returned to some semblance of normality in Adelaide, as in we don't exactly have any sadistically torturous serial killers on the loose (that we know of) and children aren't tending to disappear without a trace in unusual circumstances, but even so it seems every murder, discovery of a body or child abduction that does still take place here is automatically lumped in with the city's dark reputation. Some commentators have speculated that one day Adelaide will eventually lose it's 'city of corpses' moniker, but they always tend to add the caveat, "if we can figure out why these events happened in the first place and ensure changes are made in our city so they don't happen again". I believe criminologists have also attempted to study Adelaide itself to see what might have contributed to some of the crimes we've seen here, and posit some theories regarding 'hot house environments'.

So can a city itself be psychologically 'sick' in some way, or is it a case of coincidence or correlation doesn't equal causation (or whatever the correct terminology is)?
 

wolfvgang22

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Sounds like Gotham. Where is the Batman?
 
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In reference to your sig, which is brilliant by the way, after the Snowtown murders our Government did at least sit back and go 'Hmm, you know maybe we really should do something about the economic underdevelopment and lack of mental health care services in these certain areas we've been ignoring for the past however many years, considering Adelaide now officially has the worse serial murders in the entire country' - for some unknown reason all the other skeletons, mummified remains and dismembered bodies that kept turning up over the years didn't seem to set off any alarm bells in terms of 'sh!t just got real, maybe we should at least take a look at a few things here'.
 
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Ceke2002

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reminds me of elm street
Well there was at least one murder here of a high profile lawyer, that became known as 'the body in the freezer', where it was later alleged that the victim in question had been involved in the procurement of young children for the purposes of organised sex parties, so I guess Adelaide could have had it's own version of Freddie Krueger as a dream killer ice zombie. :thinking:
 
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birchswing

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Well, I would say it goes into the social part of bio-psycho-social.

But the other factor is that psychiatric illness is defined as a deviation from cultural norms. So, I feel like there are things about humans that will always be true. There are limits to human behavior, meaning that there seem to be things about humans that are true across time and region. But I think there's probably the propensity for a wide variety of cultures that can never fully be explained (people try with many theories: path dependency theory being one). Look at Europe/Russia during World War II and look at it today. Was everyone in war mentally ill? What's different in your situation is that there were 3 cases of serial killers, which isn't the same as a cultural norm of war. But the fact that there is a background of kidnappings, murders, etc., might play a role in influencing more sadistic crimes. I've recently heard that in countries with more positive narratives, schizophrenia doesn't manifest with as persecutory of voices. I've also heard that anorexia is less likely to manifest in countries with ideals of thinness. So I suppose it's possible that in the same way a background of violence can influence there being even more sadistic crimes.

As to a case study of the historic causes of violence in Adelaide, you know more than I do because I know nothing about it. But I personally believe everything is potentially explainable, not that it necessarily can be explained because we have limits of not being able to see the big picture or missing information. Generally though, with something so recent a narrative can be created. What did they mean by hot house environments? Overcrowded tenements and hot temperatures?

EDIT: Also, if you're interested in a fictional (I think) look at a small town with a disturbed culture and secrets, you might enjoy Top of the Lake (on Netflix). It's rather disturbing, but takes place in New Zealand so might be of particular interest.
 
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Ah, here we go, this is what I was looking for...

Op-Ed blog piece written in 2003 (after the trial for the Snowtown Murders was underway) that quotes New York born criminologist, Dr Allan Perry, and Criminologist, Mark Findlay, on what they saw as the issues within Adelaide. Unfortunately the original articles that appeared in The Australian newspaper are no longer available, and I can't seem to find the study that I believe Mr Perry also conducted around this time. This is the point of view of a criminology expert, I guess I'm interested in hearing the psychiatric (or forensic psychiatry) point of view as well.

~~~~~~~~

http://www.sauer-thompson.com/archives/opinion/000830.php

Allan Perry, an Adelaide University criminologist, has said that South Australia's reputation for bizarre killings was not just bad luck or coincidence.

"Adelaide is a stifled and inbred city whose subculture of degeneracy led to atrocities such as the bodies-in-barrels murders. Cities such as Sydney and Melbourne had areas of similar social deprivation to Adelaide, but these were dynamic and social societies with more outlets for people's frustrations. Adelaide is much more of a stifled, inbred community.There is no vibrant social or commercial life (in the city). The question is why do the best and brightest in Adelaide never stay around, and why few in that category come here? The answer is clear - no one with ambition thinks that Adelaide is the place for them."

Adelaide is a large country town, that fancies itself to be a cosmopolitan city. It has large urban areas of social deprivation due to the negative impact of economic globalization on its old manufacturing industries. The Athens of the South in the 1970s became a rust belt town in the 1980s and 1990s and is now trying to reinvent itself.

Dr. Perry then went on to put his finger on what troubled him about Adelaide:


"(I'm referring to) the lifestyle of an increasingly significant subculture of people in the South Australian community, whose lives are totally amoral and parasitic upon society. This culture of degeneracy had built up in some impoverished parts of the city created by welfare dependency and worsened by the breakdown of family units, leaving children growing up in amoral environments."
The remarks are seen to be inflammatory and Dr Perry has been told to go to New York. South Australia is a state where the Rann Labor Government adopts a tough law and order regime to ensure its re-election. Yet the the killings went undetected by the police for the best part of a decade.


The bizarre bodies-in-a-barrel murder case is hard to dismiss lightly. This is dark stuff in a city whose self-image is premised on it beign a child of the liberal Enlightenment. John Justin Bunting and Robert Joe Wagner were engaged in a cold-blooded campaign to kill suspected pedophiles and homosexuals, whom they labelled dirty and wastes. The 11 gruesome murders involved torture, victims bodies being cut in pieces, and then being kept as rotting trophy items in six barrels of hydrochloric acid. (*nb: the article forgot to mention the cannibalism as well)

Yet this darkness has been quitely buried--the horror has been brushed aside. An enlightened city has no way of dealing with this stuff. It cannot comprehend that the darkness of 12 vicious murders in six years involving four killers---far more than you seen on Law and Order--- is the other side of the light of reason.

Mark Findlay, a criminologist, writing in The Australian, says that even though Snowtown was an awful, explicable and relentless tragedy involving serial killings the press was relatively disinterested (The Australian being an exception). Press coverage was sporadic. He asks:

"[Snowtown] was the worst serial murder case in Australia's history, and one of the longest and most brutal trials, yet Pauline Hanson's imprisonment seems to have stirred up more heat. Why?"

The 'why' is a good question to ask. The Advertiser has been largely silent on this. Findlay draws attention to what Allan Perry called the the culture of degeneracy:

"In Snowtown, brothers killed brothers, homosexual lovers killed partners as some sick statement over confused sexuality [sic] and vulnerable victims were robbed after death all in an atmosphere of neglect, abuse, domination and degradation. Most of those involved in the tragedy came from a part of our society that is ignored, avoided or institutionalised. Perhaps it explains how a dozen deaths over half a decade passed seemingly unnoticed. There has been little comment on how, not why, this could happen. The why has exercised little more than some glib generalisations about social outcasts."

Findlay's answer has to do with the outcast bit:

"It is not unfair to suggest that as a lost, socially inadequate, fringe dweller you will not generate the excitement of the viewing public or of criminal justice until it is too late, and even then not much. Snowtown was, in part, the consequence of a lack of social engagement and of rejection at all levels. The apparent apathy surrounding this horror seems a natural extension of this climate of rejection."

Adelaide is trying to expunge the serial killings as having nothing to do with what it is as a civilised liberal and egalitarian society. They are beeing swept under the carpet. It is best to forget. But the sense of shame and embarrasment stays. It reinforces the public feeling that there is something sick/unhealthy about the culture of Adelaide. We are indeed a long way from the 1970's brand of 'Athens of the South.'
 
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Ceke2002

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Well, I would say it goes into the social part of bio-psycho-social.

But the other factor is that psychiatric illness is defined as a deviation from cultural norms. So, I feel like there are things about humans that will always be true. There are limits to human behavior, meaning that there seem to be things about humans that are true across time and region. But I think there's probably the propensity for a wide variety of cultures that can never fully be explained (people try with many theories: path dependency theory being one). Look at Europe/Russia during World War II and look at it today. Was everyone in war mentally ill? What's different in your situation is that there were 3 cases of serial killers, which isn't the same as a cultural norm of war. But the fact that there is a background of kidnappings, murders, etc., might play a role in influencing more sadistic crimes. I've recently heard that in countries with more positive narratives, schizophrenia doesn't manifest with as persecutory of voices. I've also heard that anorexia is less likely to manifest in countries with ideals of thinness. So I suppose it's possible that in the same way a background of violence can influence there being even more sadistic crimes.

As to a case study of the historic causes of violence in Adelaide, you know more than I do because I know nothing about it. But I personally believe everything is potentially explainable, not that it necessarily can be explained because we have limits of not being able to see the big picture or missing information. Generally though, with something so recent a narrative can be created. What did they mean by hot house environments? Overcrowded tenements and hot temperatures?

EDIT: Also, if you're interested in a fictional (I think) look at a small town with a disturbed culture and secrets, you might enjoy Top of the Lake (on Netflix). It's rather disturbing, but takes place in New Zealand so might be of particular interest.
I saw Top of the Lake when it first aired on pay tv here, brilliant show! And historically there are definitely reasons for Adelaide's violent reputation, some of which you can see quoted in the Op-Ed piece I posted above. A lot of the time though, when the issues with Adelaide are actually discussed, the subject seems to go beyond just 'ABC subgroup of XYZ at risk population are more likely to harbour a breeding ground of sadistic violence due to *insert whatever PsychoSocio reason*' and enters into the realms of 'there's something wrong with the very fabric of the entire city itself. It's kinda weird, it's almost like Adelaide itself has become a starring character in its own horror show.
 
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Adelaide's so popular with serial killers, even Dexter planned a trip over here. :laugh: (promotional advert for the series 'Dexter' that was pulled from the air shortly after it was broadcast due to complaints lodged by the South Australian Government).

 

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I saw Top of the Lake when it first aired on pay tv here, brilliant show! And historically there are definitely reasons for Adelaide's violent reputation, some of which you can see quoted in the Op-Ed piece I posted above. A lot of the time though, when the issues with Adelaide are actually discussed, the subject seems to go beyond just 'ABC subgroup of XYZ at risk population are more likely to harbour a breeding ground of sadistic violence due to *insert whatever PsychoSocio reason*' and enters into the realms of 'there's something wrong with the very fabric of the entire city itself. It's kinda weird, it's almost like Adelaide itself has become a starring character in its own horror show.
Hmm . . . Maybe it's just the way we associate a lot of places with some piece of trivia, like Amsterdam is where people smoke pot openly, Seattle is rainy, Paris is romantic, etc. And now I have one more to add to the list: Adelaide is where people go never to return.
 
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Hmm . . . Maybe it's just the way we associate a lot of places with some piece of trivia, like Amsterdam is where people smoke pot openly, Seattle is rainy, Paris is romantic, etc. And now I have one more to add to the list: Adelaide is where people go never to return.
:laugh::claps:
 
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In reference to your sig, which is brilliant by the way, after the Snowtown murders our Government did at least sit back and go 'Hmm, you know maybe we really should do something about the economic underdevelopment and lack of mental health care services in these certain areas we've been ignoring for the past however many years, considering Adelaide now officially has the worse serial murders in the entire country' - for some unknown reason all the other skeletons, mummified remains and dismembered bodies that kept turning up over the years didn't seem to set off any alarm bells in terms of 'sh!t just got real, maybe we should at least take a look at a few things here'.
Well in Chicago, which to be has always seemed the most Gotham-like of any city in the US today, our responses has been and continues to be "f-ck mental health".
 
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Well in Chicago, which to be has always seemed the most Gotham-like of any city in the US today, our responses has been and continues to be "f-ck mental health".
Maybe you need a few more serial killers to turn up in your city, I'm sure we've got some we could lend you. Seriously though it took Adelaide long enough to get it's collective sh!t together after people were going missing and turning up butchered, or not turning up at all. Give it another 40 years or so and you might get the same changes in Chicago, I mean it's not like Adelaide was totally in denial that we had a problem for all those years. :rolleyes:
 

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Maybe you need a few more serial killers to turn up in your city, I'm sure we've got some we could lend you. Seriously though it took Adelaide long enough to get it's collective sh!t together after people were going missing and turning up butchered, or not turning up at all. Give it another 40 years or so and you might get the same changes in Chicago, I mean it's not like Adelaide was totally in denial that we had a problem for all those years. :rolleyes:
we have no shortage of problems.
 
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I've recently heard that in countries with more positive narratives, schizophrenia doesn't manifest with as persecutory of voices. I've also heard that anorexia is less likely to manifest in countries with ideals of thinness. So I suppose it's possible that in the same way a background of violence can influence there being even more sadistic crimes.
Going a bit off-track here, but this reminds me of this one article I read by this Stanford researcher. She was saying while the voices of schizophrenic patients in the US are harsh, the voices in India and Africa are more benign, and they do not seem as threatening.

This also reminds me of a TED talk I saw by Eleanor Longden, who hears voices. I don't remember when in the video she says this, but when she first started hearing her voices, the voices were speaking from a neutral third-person perspective (if she was opening the door, the voices would say "She is opening the door" or "She is leaving the room" if she was leaving the room). She then told a friend about her voices, and her friend was very shocked and horrified, and according to Longden, it started a "subtle conditioning process" in which the voices became more harsh.
 
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In St. Louis one can only get into a long-term psych unit if the person committed a crime.

Yes, I'm not joking.

In every acute unit I've worked with, about 10% (this figure I'm basing on prior clinical experience) did not improve in the acute setting after several weeks of treatment and were sent to the long-term unit.

While I was at U of Cincinnati between 3 units carrying about 25 patients each, each week about 5 patients were sent to the long-term facility. While I was in NJ we had a few going each week too.

This is setting up the system to either discharge a patient prematurely that is still dangerous because payers such as insurance or Medicare/Medicaid only pay for limited hospitalizations, or the hospital will have to eat the cost pushing hospitals to not want to have psych units, or it sets the hospital to hope the person will commit a crime to get the care they need.

Again, I'm not joking.

This has embittered me to not want to do inpatient despite that it's my favorite type of psych practice because on average, every week, WE WILL GET AT LEAST A FEW PEOPLE THAT WILL NEED LONG-TERM CARE.
 

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In St. Louis one can only get into a long-term psych unit if the person committed a crime.

Yes, I'm not joking.

In every acute unit I've worked with, about 10% (this figure I'm basing on prior clinical experience) did not improve in the acute setting after several weeks of treatment and were sent to the long-term unit.

While I was at U of Cincinnati between 3 units carrying about 25 patients each, each week about 5 patients were sent to the long-term facility. While I was in NJ we had a few going each week too.

This is setting up the system to either discharge a patient prematurely that is still dangerous because payers such as insurance or Medicare/Medicaid only pay for limited hospitalizations, or the hospital will have to eat the cost pushing hospitals to not want to have psych units, or it sets the hospital to hope the person will commit a crime to get the care they need.

Again, I'm not joking.

This has embittered me to not want to do inpatient despite that it's my favorite type of psych practice because on average, every week, WE WILL GET AT LEAST A FEW PEOPLE THAT WILL NEED LONG-TERM CARE.
I think we hit the 500 day mark on an inpatient unit waiting for state hospital placement a couple years back. The concept of a long-term unit seems like an obscure fantasy around here.
 
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In Ohio and NJ the wait for a long-term unit at most would hit about a few weeks but they usually were just a few days of wait. There were, however, requirements such as the attending doctor had to state to the state hospital doc why the patient should be transferred if the patient was not in the short-term unit for a month. E.g. the patient is a known treatment-resistant patient that needs Clozapine.
 
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Ceke2002

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In St. Louis one can only get into a long-term psych unit if the person committed a crime.

Yes, I'm not joking.

In every acute unit I've worked with, about 10% (this figure I'm basing on prior clinical experience) did not improve in the acute setting after several weeks of treatment and were sent to the long-term unit.

While I was at U of Cincinnati between 3 units carrying about 25 patients each, each week about 5 patients were sent to the long-term facility. While I was in NJ we had a few going each week too.

This is setting up the system to either discharge a patient prematurely that is still dangerous because payers such as insurance or Medicare/Medicaid only pay for limited hospitalizations, or the hospital will have to eat the cost pushing hospitals to not want to have psych units, or it sets the hospital to hope the person will commit a crime to get the care they need.

Again, I'm not joking.

This has embittered me to not want to do inpatient despite that it's my favorite type of psych practice because on average, every week, WE WILL GET AT LEAST A FEW PEOPLE THAT WILL NEED LONG-TERM CARE.
I think we hit the 500 day mark on an inpatient unit waiting for state hospital placement a couple years back. The concept of a long-term unit seems like an obscure fantasy around here.
As far as I'm aware we have a similar problem here as well. It's great that they improved services greatly in terms of mental health care access at the community level, especially for areas that were previously underserved and disadvantaged, but they also shut down nearly all of the long term secure hospital units that used to be available - except for those that house patients deemed to be 'criminally insane'. There are still long term treatment places available within the only remaining state psychiatric hospital here, but it's like 129 self contained units where patients more or less live in an assisted living type set up, as opposed to being in high level security type locked wards if they've become a danger to the community BEFORE they potentially go out and commit a serious crime. The system here more or less operates on the principal of 'least restrictive environment for treatment' as best practice, which on the one hand is great, at least we're not just throwing people in the state mental hospital on a whim anymore, but on the otherhand it doesn't really take into account that some patients may just have pathology that is so severe they need to be in long term secure care facilities and not just places in such after they've had an apparent psychotic break and stabbed a family member to death. At least with the improvements that have been made though we're no longer in a total crisis state with out mental health system where they were having to warehouse floridly psychotic schizophrenic patients in with a predominantly adolescent population on an eating disorders treatment ward.
 

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It's inevitable. Our unit once in awhile gets someone that needs to be in a long-term unit that we can't handle. A few months age we had a signficantly brain damaged TBI patient that was extremely violent. It's a TBI. There's no easy treatment for it. The only successes I had in treating TBIs with meds were hit-or miss. You try one med, you max it out, you see what happens, and if nothing go on to the next. In most of my TBI cases I did get the patient significantly better but this was only after what was usually months of trial and error and when we hit success I made sure the outpatient doctor was given a lengthy report of all of the medication trials so they wouldn't repeat the same process.

This patient I had on the unit needed to go to a long-term unit but they kept refusing cause he had no criminal charges. Literally, after a nurse was severely attacked (being the second attack on a nurse by this guy) did we finally get him out cause the nurse pressed charges, so a crime stuck on the patient, and viola. Pathetic if you ask me. This guy should've been taken out of our unit much earlier.

Another hospital in the area discharged this guy despite that he was dangerous due to his TBI citing on his record that he was fine. He was not. Any guess why they would do such a thing? (patient had no insurance and there's nothing they could think of that would get the patient better--dump him to the street).
 
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