City shootings data difficult to compare with rest of state

Want to know how many shootings took place in Maryland last year? And where?

Easier said than done.

After a violent Labor Day weekend that saw 16 people shot in Baltimore, six fatally, The Baltimore Sun wanted to know how city shooting trends compared with those in other parts of Maryland. But because there's no requirement to report shootings, it's difficult to develop a statewide analysis.

Maryland's Uniform Crime Report — the annual crime compilation of statistics required for all states by the federal government, with a nationwide version published — doesn't tally nonfatal shootings.

Statewide figures are available for homicide by firearm, and the annual total is reported for each county and Baltimore City. The same is true for aggravated assaults using guns, as well as many other crimes, but there's no breakdown of total shootings.

Some police departments, including Baltimore's, compile shooting information for their own purposes. Such data can help point to feuds among gangs, neighborhood beefs, retaliation and other crime trends.

"We find it incredibly useful. But our focus is on gun violence," said Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. "That may not be the case elsewhere."

The city department's move to compile data on homicides by gun and nonfatal shootings was made under former Baltimore police commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III shortly after he took over in 2007, Guglielmi said.

The number of shootings, fatal and nonfatal, has come down in recent years.

Tracking shootings can be valuable, said Daniel Webster, a Johns Hopkins University professor who is co-director of its Center for Gun Policy and Research. People who shoot others are likely to be serious criminals or killers, he said.

"Gun violence is unique from other kinds of violence in that it operates in a contagious kind of way. One shooting leads to another shooting. That's how things kind of escalate or spread," he said.

Shootings in Baltimore

2008: Homicides: 186. Nonfatal shootings: 585

2009: Homicides: 194. Nonfatal shootings: 451

2010: Homicides: 168. Nonfatal shootings: 420

2011: Homicides: 150. Nonfatal shootings: 381

2002: Homicides: (data not available). Nonfatal shootings: 259 (as of Sept. 13)

Source: Baltimore City Police Department

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