Dear 100 Hour Board,
Hey, Guesthouse! I was thinking of becoming the next Iron Man. Or perhaps Batman, Arrow, or some other super hero vigilante. Have there been any note worthy real life vigilantes like that? Or is it all just stuff of comics and good vigilantes don’t exist...
A true-crime related question! Right up my alley, thank you very much.
1) Yes, there are plenty of notable real-life vigilantes. Here's a few.
- Jack Ruby - charged with killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of JFK.
- The Lavender Panthers - A gang of gay vigilantes in the 70s set on getting justice for their friends who were victims of hate crimes.
- Kid Spiderman - lured and caught a pedo and turned him over to the police
- The Gulabi Gang - On Wednesdays, they wear pink. But really. These bad-A women fight domestic violence.
- The Vigilante Spider, AKA The Real Life Superhero Project - Not violent, but he does wear a homemade outfit and call people out for being crappy citizens.
- You're also welcome to check out this list. You'll notice that most of the people are cowboys. So... maybe instead of being a super-hero vigilante, you can just go Wild Wild West on 'em.
2) PLEASE do not become a vigilante.
Vigilantes are celebrated as heroes, a sentiment not helped by superhero films. But vigilanteism is illegal, so formally it doesn't make you any better than other criminals and kind of defeats the goal of justice in the first place. Just let the law do its job. Not only that, but it's super dangerous. You're going out into the world of criminals, you have to deal with the consequences of that. Lots of people end up injured or dead because they wanted to solve things themselves. Using fire to fight fire just builds a bigger fire.
Do you really want to get involved in crime-fighting and justice? Might I suggest some safer, more legal options:
- Become a lawyer or judge
- Become a police officer or other law enforcement agent
- Become a forensic scientist
- Learn about citizen's arrest. Be prepared to exercise that right *if* the opportunity arises (don't go looking for trouble, though)
- Take a self-defense class
- Get good at paying attention to your surroundings. Lots of cases get solved because someone sees something and calls in a tip... but you might miss things if you aren't paying attention. When I go places I take a quick inventory of the cars and/or people around me. It's probably paranoia more than a spirit of justice, but whatever. If you see something, call the police.
- Follow your local law enforcement on social media. Go to their events, donate to them, support them. You may even be able to volunteer with them.
- Pay attention to missing persons pages and alerts for wanted persons, become familiar with what's going on in your area.
- Help the homeless.
- If you are interested, there's a podcast called The Murder Squad with retired investigator Paul Holes (helped catch the GSK) and investigative journalist Billy Jensen. They discuss old cases that have parts that need solving, whether identifying victims or filling in timelines of a killer's whereabouts. It's all very civil, but they're using the power of mass information and social media to bring some more closure to the crime world. Most of their cases are old enough you probably weren't alive at the time, but I still enjoy feeling like I could help if I knew someone who might have information.
- Serve your jury duty, and do a good job of it.