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What a Difference 60 Years Makes: Dragnet’s Hunt for a Hit-and-Run Killer

10:55 AM EDT on June 18, 2012

We have to thank Network blog Copenhagenize for pointing us to this video, from a 1954 episode of the classic detective series Dragnet. In this installment, Los Angeles Police Detective Joe Friday and his team investigate a hit-and-run collision that killed a woman crossing the street with her grandson.

Apparently the attitude toward traffic deaths among law enforcement officials has changed quite a bit since 1954, notes Copenhagenize's Mikael Colville-Andersen:

As Sergeant Joe Friday puts it [6 minutes, 18 seconds in]: "How much difference, for example, as far as moral guilt is concerned, is there between the following: #1 the man who plans a killing, takes up a gun, finds his victim and shoots him to death. And #2 the man who thinks he has to look out for no one’s welfare but his own, gets behind the wheel of a car, disregards the ordinary rules of safety and proceeds to commit homicide with a motor vehicle. Often times the crime masquerades under the guise of an accident. Morally, no matter how you spell it, it adds up to murder just as surely as if the person had taken a gun and shot his victim down."

Imagine. Look at how much air time was given to a hit & run. Things have certainly changed. Maybe lucrative car commercials ended up weeding out bad branding like this storyline.

Contrast that with modern-day New York City, where the family members of hit-and-run victims have to sue the police department for failing to investigate a very similar crime. Where's Joe Friday when you need him?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Economics of Place discusses the value of placemaking initiatives in cities like Detroit, where basic infrastructure may be in a state of complete disrepair. Urban Review STL considers the proper alignment for the St. Louis streetcar. And Human Transit says that when Apple and Google fight, map users lose.

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