Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Murder Project: By the Numbers

August 5th, 2009 · 4 Comments

HitmanBloggers are lazy? Microkhan chortles at that stereotype. We just wrapped up a long morning of analyzing FBI data, all in the name of furthering The Murder Project, our ongoing effort to assess the state of today’s contract-killing marketplace. And today’s verdict does not exactly lift our hearts.

As mentioned previously, the only reliable pricing study we’ve come across (via Slate‘s Nina Shen Rastogi) is this one from Australia. It examined 163 contract killings in that nation, and found that the average price was $12,700. That’s about on par with what murder-for-hire cost in New York City back in 1914, which got us wondering whether hitman prices have remained static over time.

Our DIY analysis involved looking at the last two years’ worth of FBI press releases, in search of pricing data in murder-for-hire cases. (Yes, we realize that a true scientist would’ve looked at the court records instead of the press releases. If anyone’s willing to fund such research, believe us, we’re game.) We automatically excluded all cases in which the the killer was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent; in such instances, agents are instructed not to quibble with whatever sum they’re offered, in order to avoid any appearance of entrapment. Alas, that ruled out over half of the murder-for-hire cases right off the bat.

Of those that remained, we tabulated the price quotes, then knocked out the two most extreme outliers: a $600 fee on the low end, and a $75,000 fee on the high end. We then calculated the average price for the cases that remained. That hallowed figure?

Exactly $6,000 per hit.

Before y’all start jumping up and down, lamenting that life has become astonishingly cheap in 21st-century America, a few caveats must be taken into account. For starters, consider that the vast majority—approximately 85 percent—of these cases involved family members targeting one another. These are not master criminals by any stretch of the imagination, and so they started the murder-for-hire process with a) limited funds and b) no idea of where to find a killer smart enough to evade capture. In fact, we were struck by how many folks simply asked co-workers to do the job—often drug-addled co-workers.

Also, there just didn’t seem to be many cases involving organized crime figures, who would presumably pay a premium to have jobs done right. When murder-for-hire was mentioned in regards to such figures, it was usually as part of a RICO case; the “hire” element of the killings thus involved in-kind payments made to lieutenants, rather than straight-up fees-for-service. We reckon this means the days of one-off freelancers are far behind us—surely to Hollywood’s chagrin.

More of this series soon. Next up: the market in Western Europe, and what the fees Over There might tell us about the efficacy of Continental policing.


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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Brian Moore

    Good image reference!

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Thanks! Believe it or not, took me a while to think of that one. Spent (er, wasted) a good 20 minutes sifting through FBI historical photos, looking for a good hitman snapshot. No dice.

  • Brian Moore

    Hehe, I can imagine. I think you’re definitely right about this:

    “We reckon this means the days of one-off freelancers are far behind us—surely to Hollywood’s chagrin.”

    And apparently video game companies, as well.

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