October 2015 was historic with only two murders taking place during the month (a third murder is counted for Uniform Crime Report purposes from an unclassified death in February that was ruled a homicide in October). Gun violence levels — as defined by the number of firearm discharge reports — were among the highest in 2015, but few firearm discharges resulted in victims hit and only one victim was shot and killed during the month.
This blog has repeatedly noted how randomness/luck was largely responsible for New Orleans’ increased murder pace in 2015 (see here and here for example). I have also talked about how firearm discharge reports have a strong relationship with the number of shooting incidents over the course of a year.
The data show that, over time, 1 in every 7.3 firearm discharge reports will result in a victim being shot although some variation can be expected from month to month. The data further show that 36 percent of shootings over time will end in at least one person being fatally shot and killed.
October bucked both of those expectations in a major way. There were 238 firearm discharges reported in October, but only 24 shooting incidents occurred over the course of the month. Entering October, 39.3 percent of shooting incidents in New Orleans had ended in a fatality, but only 1 of 24 October shootings were fatal.
An average ratio of firearm discharge reports to shootings would be expected to produce 33 shootings over the course of a month. Had 36 percent of October shootings ended in a fatality then the month would have produced 8 or 9 fatal shootings rather than 2.
New Orleans is on pace for 389 shooting incidents and 160 murders for 2015 as of the end of October. These totals, if realized, would represent a 10 percent drop in shootings and 7.3 percent increase in murders relative to 2014.
New Orleans has also had 2,450 firearm discharge reports through October, good for a ratio of 1 shooting for every 7.6 reports. This is a slightly lower ratio than expected, so a similar number of firearm discharge reports may produce more shootings over the next few months.
The New Orleans Neighborhood Gun Violence Index for October 2015 is provided below (methodology available here). Most neighborhoods have seen lowered gun violence totals over the last 60 days, but Treme, West Lake Forest and Plum Orchard have all seen increased in gun violence over that period.
The data suggested that New Orleans was overdue for a slow down in murder at some point in 2015 as a lower ratio of shootings inevitably end in a fatality. October’s total drop off in murders is likely unsustainable, but it will help the city avoid the large jump in murder relative to 2014 that the city was on pace for through the middle of the year.
As I have previously noted, murder is a bad statistic for measuring gun violence. Hopefully people can focus on the positive of decreased shootings from 2014 levels this year should the current pace hold and New Orleans experience a gain in murder in 2015.