Needed: Better National, Local Data on Shootings

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President Trump yesterday ordered a task force yet to be created to evaluate the “availability and adequacy of crime-related data,” and identify ways to improve data collection that “will aid in the understanding of crime trends and in the reduction of crime.” Better data would be a welcome development, crime statistics analyst Jeff Asher writes in The Trace.. The public’s perceptions of crime often differ from the realities of the problem at a local, state and national level.

Firearms were used in 71.5 percent of homicides nationwide in 2015. In urban areas, it’s closer to 90 percent. There remains a serious information deficit about where shootings occur and who is affected. Asher says. Federal statistics on gun violence are imprecise. At the local level, data collection isn’t much better. Many major  cities don’t even track shootings as a distinct crime category. While the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report does provide national statistics on the types of weapons used in murders and assaults, it does not break down to the city level. Additionally, assaults include instances where an individual is shot at but not injured, which have a tendency to be badly under-reported. Some cities, like Chicago and Louisville, take it upon themselves to count shootings, though their reports won’t make it to the  FBI. Others, like Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, and St. Louis, produce publicly available daily murder counts. New Orleans makes a log of all 911 calls available online for public review, and Milwaukee produces data-rich assessments of gun violence patterns.

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