November 28, 2012

Black Friday Violence is Statistically Likely

It seems like its developed into an annual tradition on Black Friday that we get to see some video footage of a violent stampede at Walmart during Black Friday.   The incidents of fighting or stampedes or other violence around Black Friday are held up as evidence for why Black Friday is bad.   There are articles like Black Friday Fights: Violence Plagues 2012 Shopping Day, Videos Surface Online   When such violence occurs the annual shopping day is blamed as the cause of the violence.   But in the larger picture one or two violent incidents during Black Friday are really not that bad, in fact I'd say if thats all that happened then its actually pretty good.   Let me explain...

According to the FBI crime report "In 2011, there were an estimated 751,131 aggravated assaults in the nation."   That means that on an average day in the US there were 2,057 assaults.  

The National Retail Federation reports that about 88 million people went shopping in stores or online on Black Friday.   They don't clearly break apart who shops in stores versus online, but it seems at about half or more the people shop in stores.   Lets estimate then that 40 million people are in the stores.   Thats about 12% or so of the US population.    If they only spent 1 hour in the store at least then thats about 6% of their waking hours spent shopping.

Based on the daily average of 2,057 assaults and a guesstimate of about 40 million people spending an hour in stores on Black Friday then if assaults are proportional to time across the population I'd expect we'd see about 15 assaults among Black Friday shoppers just based on statistical averages.   I'm sure people spend more than 1 hour shopping though so it would likely be higher.

I bet you that ever day in the country we have 10 times as many people assaulted in our nations bars and taverns.   But thats not news.  Yet one punch thrown in a Black Friday brawl is sure to be highlighted in the 11 o'clock news all around the country.   

Large groups of people in crowded conditions can be a risk factor for increased rates of violence.  Assaults at sporting venues are common place.   Anaheim stadium was bragging that it is safe and they only had 15 simple assaults last year during Angels games.   Attendance at Angles games for a season is about 3 million. (less than 10% of the Black Friday shoppers)  Sports stadiums can be a particularly bad place for violence particularly if you add alcohol which is often sold in stadiums.   But its not just drunk sports fans, any large group of people can see violence.   I can even find many instances of assault in churches. 

Get enough people together in crowds and unfortunately some amount of violence is almost inevitable.   Its unfortunate but it happens, whether its the shopping mall, your local bar, a rock concert or a mega church.  But none of its unusual to Black Friday.

Don't be afraid of Black Friday violence.    You're probably more likely to get punched at a baseball game.


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