Police chiefs, criminologists and federal officials are calling for better and more accurate data on crime as the nation grapples with gun violence but fails to keep a simple tally of the total number of people shot across the country each year, reports the Baltimore Sun. The FBI takes a census on crime each year with data from local police departments, but many don’t specifically track when people are shot and survive. Those nonfatal shootings are often recorded under a broader category of aggravated assault, which also includes stabbings, serious beatings and other crimes. Without that information, police and policymakers say, they can’t gauge the full extent of gun violence in America. Homicides are tracked in a distinct category.
“The fact that we don’t count the number of people who are shot is just astonishing because that’s a better barometer of that kind of violence than just homicides,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. The lack of more detailed data was flagged this month by the U.S. Department of Justice in an annual report on the state of policing in the United States. The report noted that police chiefs during recent summits on escalating urban violence recognized that their crime analysis was limited by the fact that not all shootings, such as those that don’t result in a homicide, are tracked. More accurate and immediate data on fatal and nonfatal shootings “could be vital in combating violent crime and in building community trust,” said the report from the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.