Baltimore’s summer violence spiked again last week when 20 people were shot in 80 hours. But fortunately for many victims, the spate of attacks left an unusually low number of people dead.
In recent years, Baltimore has seen about one person killed by gunfire for every two who are shot but survive. But in the weeks since Aug. 10, gunfire has been less lethal: Four people were shot to death while about 30 survived their wounds, as of Friday evening.
Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Policy and Research, said large numbers of nonfatal shootings — unlike targeted gang killings — indicate spontaneous outbursts that play out like infectious disease.
The reasons are complicated, Webster said, and can include an increase in tension in areas that have seen recent shootings. If people worry more about gun violence, Webster said, they might be more likely to carry a gun and use it to shoot someone.
That contrasts with targeted attacks carried out by drug crews and gangs, which tend to be carefully planned and conducted with the intent to kill.
“They don’t leave anything to chance,” Webster said. “They’re fairly professional kinds of things.”
Late last year, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts blamed a spike in homicides on gang executions, pointing to the high numbers of people who died after being shot in the head.
The trend over time in numbers of people who survive their wounds and those who die is not consistent.
In the past decade, nonfatal shootings have declined at a much faster rate than killings involving a gun. In 2002, 610 people in Baltimore were shot but survived, while 209 died. In 2012, 372 people survived being shot and 183 died. Webster said more research needs to be done to explain why.
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