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.