The start to 2017 has been terrible in terms of gun violence in New Orleans. Shootings are up 63 percent relative to this day in 2016 and murders are up 145 percent over that span. The rise in gun violence in New Orleans at the start of 2017 is not some spontaneous happenstance, but rather it reflects a change that began here toward the middle of 2016.
There is evidence, however, that gun violence may be slowing down or at least is no longer rising as quickly.
The rise in gun violence over the last few months can be easily seen in the below chart which tracks shooting incidents over 365 days.
Just how bad did things get? Consider the below table of shooting incidents per month over the last 18 months which does not include the 25 incidents through 14 days of February 2017.
Shooting incidents are not yet slowing down, but the number of firearm discharge reports appears to have peaked. As I’ve written many times before, firearm discharge reports can be a good bellwether of citywide gun violence rates.
The below chart, therefore, suggests that some relief may be forthcoming though it does so with some pretty heavy caveats. First, the relatively positive news. The below graphic shows firearm discharge reports over 365, 90, 30 and 7 days.
The rise has leveled off in the 365 (top left) and 90 day (top right) charts with the 30 day (bottom left) chart showing a fairly steep drop. The 7 day chart (bottom right) shows the drop occurred and a rebound may have begun over the last week or so.
Now the caveats.
- A slowdown in firearm discharges will not inherently lead to fewer shootings over the short term. I’ve talked before about how firearm discharge reports can be used to create an expected shooting total over a period of time by dividing the observed total by 7 (the average firearm discharge reports per shooting since 2010). Both shootings and firearm discharge reports have skyrocketed since last summer, but analyzing firearm discharge reports suggests there actually should have been more shootings than observed over that time period. In other words, firearm discharge reports may slow down, but if they don’t slow down dramatically it may not have a significant impact on citywide shooting totals.
- Firearm discharge reports are occurring at abnormally high levels even with the slowdown observed so far. There were 351 firearm discharge reports over the last 30 days and 74 over the last 7 days. That would translate to 610 and 551 expected shootings over the course of a full year. For comparison sake that would be +26 percent and +13.4 percent above 2016’s already very high shooting totals. Either of those shooting totals would be expected to produce over 200 murders in New Orleans.
- There may not be a slowdown in murder even if a slowdown in firearm discharge reports leads to a slowdown in shootings. There’s a lot of randomness involved in whether a shooting is fatal or nonfatal and the evidence shows that the randomness fluctuates up and down over time. Only 28.8 percent of 2017 shootings have been fatal compared to 32 percent in 2016 and 37 percent in 2015. The average since 2010 has been 35 percent of shooting incidents being fatal. The expectation, therefore, is that at some point the fatality rate will regress toward the mean. If not, however, then it will be worth evaluating whether a change in gun violence patterns is producing less lethal shootings in New Orleans. For the time being though it stands to reason that even a significant slowdown in shootings may not stem the tide of rising murder in 2017.