Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Few shootings still too many

While in Ohio last Friday, one of the presentations by the eight police departments comprising the Northern Ohio Violent Crime Consortium included some data about murders and shootings last year. The City of Akron (population 198,402) had 25 murders in 2012, and slightly over 250 people were shot. By comparison, the City of Lincoln, (population 262,341) had four murders, and there were 17 people shot, which  includes two of those murders.

That's a whopping difference in gun violence.  Actually, Akron is pretty typical of cities in our size range, and would be well below the really violent cities of similar size. I think Akron has an excellent effort underway, and I was impressed by their strategy, but it also made me glad to live in Lincoln. Sometimes it is good to put things into perspective and be reminded that despite the daily reports of mayhem, Lincoln is still incredibly fortunate to have an unusually low rate of serious violent crime. Despite the low numbers, 17 shootings is still too many. If you are one of those victims, it is small consolation.

I get a daily email containing links to interesting news articles from the Police Executive Research Forum. Yesterday's clips included an article from last Friday's Chicago Sun-Times, in which police superintendent Gary McCarthy suggests that FBI start tracking shootings in the Uniform Crime Reporting program. McCarthy thinks this is a more accurate barometer of violence than murders, since whether the victim dies or not is dependent on a variety of other factors. He may have a point there, but it's probably not going to make Chicago look much safer. The Sun-Times article mentions that as of last Thursday (he 53rd day of 2013), 56 people had been murdered in Chicago and 221 shot.

While I basically agree with Superintendent McCarthy's belief that it would be good to have some national data on shooting incidents, I also wonder how many of the 17,000 or so police agencies in the United States would be able to accurately and reliably produce the data. It's easy in Lincoln--and apparently Akron and Chicago--but I suspect some agencies might be hard pressed to tell you how many people were shot last year without some digging in the stacks.


Anonymous said...

What are the respective racial demographics of the cities in question?

Anonymous said...

Does the 17 include accidents as well? I think accidents/negligent acts should be looked a little differently than an assault/murder.

Tom Casady said...


No, these data are only assaults and murders, and do not include accidental discharges, or suicides and attempts.


All of these cities are far more diverse than Lincoln, and there is a strong correlation between race and violent crime. It is well documented in the research literature, for example, that African-American citizens are more likely to be both victims and perpetrators. This is primarily a reflection of economics, and if you control for income, most of the racial disparity in violent crime disappears. It is a sad fact that people who are black, Latino, and native American in the United States have median incomes far below those who are white.

LoupGarou said...

Do they have a further breakdown of this information like how many of the shootings/murders were gang related, robberies, domestic violence, etc...I think when places put out information like this it doesn't paint a very accurate picture. Also, how do these relate to local firearm control? Lincoln has carry/conceal, while from my understanding Chicago has very strict firearm laws.

Being one who writes statistical and data analysis programs; much like you I have a built in garbage detector and prefer to see how the numbers truly break down.