Mayor Landrieu announced at his State of the City speech today that New Orleans is on pace for it’s lowest murder count since 1971. Depending on which incidents you’re counting New Orleans has had between 59 and 62 murders in 2016 which puts the city on pace for 126 to 132 murders.

That pace, if realized, would represent a drop of 36.7 percent since the city hit 199 murders in 2011. That’s great news, but as I’ve noted several times before, murder is a bad statistic for measuring gun violence largely because whether a shooting victim lives or dies in a shooting is often the result of thousands of random outcomes that cannot be controlled.

There have been 2,728 shooting incidents in which a victim was struck from the beginning of 2010 through June 20, 2016. Of those 2,728 incidents, 35.2 percent (959) have led to at least one person being killed. In 2016, however, only 28 percent (54 of 192) of shooting incidents have been fatal thus far compared with over 40 percent at this point in 2015. That’s the difference between being on pace for 130 murders as we are right now and 160 murders as we would be if 35 percent of shootings were ending in a fatality.

This factor leads to the inevitable conclusion that a similar number of shootings will produce more murders over the remainder of the year. Put another way, murder will likely rise some time in the not too distant future without a substantial reduction in shootings.

It stands to reason then that at some point the luck will shift and a significantly larger percentage of shootings will begin ending in fatalities. This shift through time can be seen in the below table which tracks shooting incident by each half of the year since 2010. We’ve actually seen fatal shooting percentages this low over six months twice before (July to December 2010 and January to June 2014) and in both cases shootings in the following half of the year were substantially more deadly.

Year 1st Half 2nd Half Change
2010 37.55% 27.49% -10.06%
2011 38.55% 38.57% +0.02%
2012 37.95% 38.36% +0.41%
2013 33.17% 40.26% +7.09%
2014 29.91% 34.53% +4.62%
2015 40.2% 32.64% -7.56%
2016 28.13% N/A N/A

Only 27.5 percent of shootings ended in a fatality over the second half of 2010 which was followed by over 38 percent in the first half of 2011. In the first half of 2014 only 29.9 percent of shootings ended in a fatality followed by 34.5 percent over the second half and over 40 percent in the first half of 2015.

As the above table and the below chart show, what’s driving murder in 2014, 2015 and the first six months of 2016 has been changes in luck. Luck was good for 2014 and murder hit its lowest point in decades despite there being 70 more shootings than in 2013. Shootings went down in 2015 but luck went bad and murder came up 10 percent.

365 days 2

This year we are on pace for 410 shootings, about 5 percent more than 2015, but 30 fewer murders because shootings are leading to fatalities 12 percent less this year than last year at this time. It would be wonderful if it held over the long term and an alternative explanation was possible (opening of University Medical Center perhaps?), but our recent history suggests a similar number of shootings will produce more murders as we go forward.