Guardian Data Maps Gun Murders by Census Tract

The data were provided by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings and gun deaths using media reports. The Guardian reported earlier that in 2015, 26 percent of U.S. gun homicides occurred in areas with 1.5 percent of the U.S. population.

The Guardian released a new set of nationwide data for 2015 that maps gun murders in the U.S. down to the local census tract. The newspaper says the data can be used to analyze how gun murder clusters within neighborhoods. The data were provided by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings and gun deaths using media reports. This data set includes the latitude and longitude of each shooting incident.

 

Using this data, the Guardian found that half of the U.S. gun murders in 2015 were clustered in 127 cities. Violence was concentrated even further than the city level: census tract areas that contain just 1.5 percent of the U.S. population saw 26 percent of gun homicides. The Guardian encourages journalists and community organizations to use the data to analyze crime trends.

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

Austin Faces Violence Wave During Festival Season

Police are focusing on a surge in armed robberies in which gun-carrying perpetrators are firing shots in the air and sometimes at victims, in an escalation of what officers have typically seen.

At a time this month when tourists poured into Austin from around the globe for the South by Southwest festivals, a week in mid-March brought a wave of violence to Central Texas that left five people dead, four facing criminal charges and at least seven other suspects who haven’t been identified or charged, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The incidents highlight an alarming trend for Austin police: As the city’s population continues to swell, violent crime — from murders to assaults — continue ticking upward. Last year, violent crime increased 10 percent, and the city saw more homicides than it had in years.

While police are concerned about all violent crime, they are now focusing on a surge in armed robberies in which gun-carrying perpetrators are firing shots in the air — and sometimes, at victims — in an escalation of what officers have typically seen. “These are bad folks that are out there committing these crimes, and they are a major focus for the Police Department now,” said Assistant Police Chief Joseph Chacon. Among 187 robberies from Jan. 1 through March 13, in 92 instances, the robbers brandished a gun; and in nine cases, they fired the weapons — something police have said they previously rarely saw. Concerns about Austin’s violent crime rate come even as the city is considered among the nation’s safest for its size. Violent crime is seeing a modest increase nationally, found a recent survey by the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association that found that all types of violent crime — homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and nonfatal shootings — had gone up about 6 percent from 2015 to 2016.

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

Americans Favor ‘Rehabilitation’ Over Jail Time, Survey Finds

A significant majority of Americans believe putting people behind bars for non-violent offenses is a wrong—and almost three-quarters favor “rehabilitation” over jail when such offenses are committed by those who suffer from mental illness, according to a Zogby Analytics/RTI International poll released today.

A significant majority of Americans believe putting people behind bars for non-violent offenses is a wrong—and almost three-quarters favor  “rehabilitation” over jail when such offenses are committed by those who suffer from mental illness, according to a Zogby Analytics/RTI International poll released today.

The  results, from an online survey completed by 3,007 persons across the country between December 9-13, are a sharp counterpoint to the “law-and-order” rhetoric  that many observers considered one of the key appeals of President Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House  last fall.

According to the poll, commissioned by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 62 percent of those surveyed agreed that “rehabilitating or treating the person” was a more appropriate response to non-violent offenders than incarceration.  Some 74 percent opposed imprisonment for offenders who were mentally ill.

The survey specifically asked respondents only about their attitudes towards crimes that did not involve violence, a sexual offense, or significant property loss. So the results may not necessarily reflect similar attitudes towards violent offenders—a category that the Trump administration claims represents a rising danger to the country.

All the same, the survey  revealed a telling ambiguity among Americans towards punishment after several decades of tough-on-crime policies that have shunted over 2.3 million Americans into prison today—many of them people of color.

Almost 20 times that number of jail admissions are recorded annualy—nearly 12 million—many of which represent detentions of individuals who have not been convicted and are awaiting trial.

Just 18 percent of survey respondents considered punishment to be the central purpose of jail, while nearly twice that number  (33 percent) felt  jail time should incorporate the kind of treatment or rehabilitation that would prevent future crimes.

Supporters of bail reform are likely to be encouraged  by another survey result which showed two-thirds of the respondents believe that release of those awaiting trail should be determined by the danger they might pose to public safety, rather than by their ability to pay money bail.

Most tellingly,  when told that  three out of every four persons in jail today were detained for non-violent offenses like traffic, property and drug violations, only 13 percent of Americans said they   were aware of that fact.

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

Krewson Wins St. L. Mayor Primary After Anticrime Drive

St. Louis Alderman Lyda Krewson, whose campaign placed heavy emphasis on a crime crackdown, won a hotly contested primary election yesterday, putting her in line to be the city’s next mayor, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an editorial. Many of her campaign ads cited to the 1995 carjacking in which her husband was fatally […]

St. Louis Alderman Lyda Krewson, whose campaign placed heavy emphasis on a crime crackdown, won a hotly contested primary election yesterday, putting her in line to be the city’s next mayor, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an editorial. Many of her campaign ads cited to the 1995 carjacking in which her husband was fatally shot outside their home while Krewson and her two children sat in the back seat. Today’s crime picture is complicated by an opioid and heroin trafficking epidemic that feeds ever-higher levels of violence and homicide.

Some believe Police Chief Sam Dotson isn’t up to the challenge. Krewson was one of the few candidates to refrain from calling for Dotson’s dismissal, which was a prudent move given that he cannot be fired without cause, the Post-Dispatch says. Krewson, 64, wasn’t endorsed by the newspaper to replace Francis Slay, but the paper believes “she is solidly grounded in the fundamentals of leadership to guide St. Louis through the challenging times ahead.” Krewson has been a certified public accountant and corporate chief financial officer. The Post-Dispatch says that city residents “are teeming with frustration over joblessness, high poverty rates and inattention to blighted neighborhoods.”

from http://thecrimereport.org

Why Are Shootings Deadlier in Some U.S. Cities?

Shootings are a better measure of gun violence than murders are, writes analyst Jeff Asher. Cincinnati is one of the most violent cities among 17 whose data he obtained, as measured by shootings, despite having comparatively few murders. Newark is the opposite: a city with more murders than its shooting rate would suggest.

Shootings are a better measure of gun violence than murders are, writes Jeff Asher for FiveThirtyEight.com. There is a lot of randomness in what happens once a bullet leaves a gun — whether someone lives or dies depends heavily on luck. Focusing just on murder leaves out all the people who could have died. And it ignores the life-changing injuries and emotional trauma that often accompany nonfatal shootings. Gun violence researchers are often forced to focus on murders rather than shootings for one simple reason: better data. Cities are not required by the FBI to track shootings specifically, and many cities choose not to count them.

Cities with the worst murder rates do not necessarily have the highest rates of gun violence victimization, as measured by shooting victims per capita. Murder rates may better serve as a measure of how lethal shootings in a city are than as a measure of that city’s overall level of gun violence. Asher collected shooting victim data for last year from 17 cities. Cincinnati is one of the most violent cities on the list, as measured by shootings, despite having comparatively few murders. Newark is the opposite: a city with more murders than its shooting rate would suggest. It appears that shootings in Baltimore and New Orleans tend to be more deadly than those in Chicago, contributing to the former two having consistently higher murder rates than Chicago. What isn’t clear is why. Answering this question would provide tremendous insight into the mechanics of gun violence in U.S. cities and could help cities devise strategies for lowering their murder rates. The question is hard to answer without more complete, more detailed data.

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Memphis Murders Up Sharply

Murder rates in four big cities have returned to levels not seen since the 1990s.. The Wall Street Journal calls it an alarming surge that police officials are struggling to slow as crime nationally remains at near-historic lows,

Murder rates in four big cities have returned to levels not seen since the 1990s, an alarming surge that police officials are struggling to slow as crime nationally remains at near-historic lows, the Wall Street Journal reports. Homicide data since 1985 for the 35 largest cities shows that four—Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Memphis.—have in the past two years approached or exceeded the records set a quarter-century ago, when many cities were plagued by gang wars and a booming crack trade. Twenty-seven of the 35 largest cities saw per capita homicide rates rise since 2014, though most are still relatively low compared with 1990s levels. New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest cities, are experiencing long-term drops in murders.

Murders in Chicago last year rose to their highest rate since 1996, with 27.8 homicides for every 100,000 residents. Memphis equaled its highest rate last year in an FBI database that goes back to 1985, at 32 murders per 100,000 residents. The pace has continued in some places in the first seven weeks this year, with 47 people killed in Baltimore, putting the city on track for one of the highest annual rates since at least 1970. In Chicago, there were 330 shootings so far as of Friday, compared with 324 over the same period last year. In Milwaukee, 17 people have been killed, compared with nine at this point last year.

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

New Crime Stats Run Counter to Trump’s Dystopian View

Crime is way down in places like San Diego, Rocky Mount, N.C., and Lowell, Mass. Meanwhile, police chiefs hope to show President Trump and his new attorney general that their view of “American carnage” is a distortion of reality.

Newly released 2016 crime statistics from a handful of U.S. cities show the peril of President Trump’s tendency to cherry-pick crime rates that seem to substantiate his dystopian view. In San Diego, for example, officials announced Tuesday that crime there essentially is at a 50-year low. Police in Rocky Mount, N.C., reported that overall crime declined in 2016 for the fifth consecutive year and is at its lowest point since 1977. And crime reports in Lowell, Mass., declined 10 percent, continuing a five-year trend. “This is outstanding,” said a city councilor there. In Battle Creek, Mich., Police Chief Jim Blocker called a similar decline there as “a national trend.”

That is not the view from the White House. In his inauguration speech, Trump referred to crime in the country as “American carnage.” And his newly appointed attorney general, Jeff Sessions, declared that a crime increase seen in some cities is indicative of “a dangerous permanent trend.” Law enforcement professionals suggest that is an irrational point of view on crime and are working to educate the Trump Administration. NPR reports that a group of current and retired police chiefs hope to convince Trump to stop his knee-jerk reaction to crime anecdotes or snapshot statistics, which they fear is a harbinger for a return to “lock ’em up” law enforcement.

David Krajicek is a contributing editor of TCR. He welcomes readers comments.

from http://thecrimereport.org

Carjackings Triple in Baltimore, Some Other Cities

Some see the increase as an unintended consequence of better antitheft security. Electronic key fobs and codes required to start newer-model cars have made them more difficult to steal — unless the driver is present.

Carjackings in Baltimore have more than tripled since 2013, and the number has continued to climb in the first weeks of 2017, at a rate that has far outpaced other auto thefts. Some other U.S. cities are also seeing increases, the Baltimore Sun reports. Law enforcement analysts see several reasons for the spike. Police in Baltimore note that the overwhelming majority of suspects are young men or juveniles, emboldened by the relative ease of the crime, and a belief that if they’re caught, the courts will not treat them harshly. Some see the increase as an unintended consequence of better antitheft security. Electronic key fobs and codes required to start newer-model cars have made them more difficult to steal — unless the driver is present.

It’s easier to resell a car that has been driven away with its keys than one that’s been hotwired, its windows smashed, and its steering column busted. In Baltimore, there were 402 carjackings last year, or little more than one a day in a city of 620,000. There were 5,161 auto thefts, or more than 14 per day. Still, those 402 carjackings were a 42 percent jump from the year before and a 224 percent leap from 2013. Auto thefts climbed 14 percent from 2013 to 2016. Researchers long have predicted a shift toward carjacking. “Stealing unoccupied cars has become increasingly difficult in recent years owing to improved anti-theft technology, and doing so can be both time-consuming and dangerous,” researchers from the University of Texas-Dallas, Georgia State and University of Missouri-St. Louis wrote in a 2003 study. “The car must be broken into and hot-wired, often to the accompaniment of a blaring alarm.”

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

More Memphis Violence is Reported in Public Places

When violence is “spilling into the public, people now are allowing their emotions, their anger to control them rather than rational thoughts,” says expert Eric Lambert. Federal survey found that 1 in 5 violent crimes took place in open areas.

Violence erupted at a Memphis bowling alley near the area where customers check-in on Jan. 31. As the fight grew, an 18-year-old man left the business, retrieved a gun from his car and opened fire through the front door into the crowd, hitting three people. While the incident may have been isolated for the bowling alley, violence in Memphis is increasingly spilling over into public places and spaces, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. In recent months, police have responded to shootings and other violence on highways, at malls, in store parking lots, community centers and stores.

Eric Lambert, a professor in the legal studies department at the University of Mississippi, said the incidents highlight a disturbing trend. “We know that violence has its roots in different causes, like the inequality of power or material well-being, stress, drugs, but when it is spilling into the public, people now are allowing their emotions, their anger to control them rather than rational thoughts because when you do things in public it is going to be observed by others and there seems to be no concern about that.” The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics surveyed victims between 2004 and 2008 and found that almost 1 in 5 violent crimes took place in open areas such as yards, playgrounds, fields, on the street or in other similar locations.

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

Trump Issues Anticrime Directives; Are They Needed?

President’s orders seek to define new federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing ones, to further protect local and federal officers from acts of violence, and dismantle international drug cartels. “President Trump intends to build task forces to investigate and stop national trends that don’t exist,” said Jeffrey Robinson of the American Civil Liberties Union.

With Jeff Sessions sworn in as Attorney General, the Trump administration signaled some of its priorities for a revamped Justice Department in a series of executive orders aimed at reducing crime and drug trafficking and protecting police officers. One order directs the Justice Department to define new federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing ones, to further protect local and federal officers from acts of violence, the Associated Press reports. Another order calls for the creation of a task force to reduce violent crime, and a third is aimed at dismantling international drug cartels.

Taken together, the directives, announced amid a national dialogue about racial bias in policing and appropriate police use of force, suggest that the White House wants to prioritize law and order and align itself closely with local law enforcement. “We must better protect those who protect us. Our men and women in blue need to know that we’re with them 100 percent as they patrol our streets. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. That was perhaps a reference to criticism directed at one of Sessions’ predecessors, former Attorney General Eric Holder. Yesterday, Holder posted on Twitter a 2011 DOJ press release announcing an initiative aimed at preventing police officer deaths. “It worked and continues to protect,” Holder wrote. Federal prosecutors already have the ability to pursue the death penalty in some cases involving the murders of law enforcement officers. And murder rates, despite an increase in some American cities, are well below where they were overall in the 1970s and 1980s. “President Trump intends to build task forces to investigate and stop national trends that don’t exist,” said Jeffrey Robinson of the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

from http://thecrimereport.org