Armed robberies are on the rise in New Orleans in 2015, but how often do armed robberies turn into shootings? Armed robberies can be traumatic for the victims, but how frequently are they violent?
The answer, fortunately, is not very often. Reviewing data from 2011 through 2014 shows that less than 1 in 20 armed robberies turn into a shooting, although the available evidence suggests armed robberies that turn violent do have a tendency to be more deadly than non-robbery shootings.
It’s impossible to know precisely how many armed robberies result in shootings in any given year because we don’t have access to NOPD write-ups of incidents and can’t decipher the circumstances behind incidents. There are two data sources we can use, however, to estimate how often robberies turn violent and what happens when they do.
The first data set I used was Calls for Service from 2011 – 2015. I identified all incidents marked as an armed robbery, an aggravated burglary or a carjacking in Calls for Service that were also identified as a shooting using this methodology. As a reminder, 2011 is the earliest set of Calls for Service placed online by the City of New Orleans.
Most homicides are identified as such in Calls for Service regardless of motive, so that data set only produces a pretty good idea of non-fatal shootings that were robberies. Finding fatal shootings that resulted from robberies can be accomplished by using homicide spreadsheets produced by a public records request to NOPD.
These spreadsheets provide lots of details on each homicide from 2011 to 2014 (2015 is not available yet) including the known or suspected motive. Adding this data set to the analysis allows us to figure out how many homicides occurred due to a robbery from 2011 to 2014.
The result is provided in the chart below. This chart shows three measures from 2011 to 2014: the blue bar is the percentage of shootings in any given year that came about due to a robbery, the green bar is the percentage of each year’s armed robberies ending in a shooting, and the red bar represents the percentage of murders in a year marked with a robbery motive.
Percent of armed robberies that turn violent, 2011 – 2014. Source: NOPD.
This chart shows that between 5 and 8 percent of shooting incidents in any given year since 2011 have been due to robbery, only 2.5 to 5 percent of armed robberies end in a shooting, and between 5 and 10 percent of homicide victims are killed as the result of a robbery.
The bottom line is that there were nearly 3,500 armed robberies in New Orleans between 2011 and 2014 and only roughly 116 ended in a shooting incident.
While armed robberies are highly unlikely to turn violent, those armed robberies that do turn into shootings are more apt to be deadly than non-robbery shootings.
As I’ve previously noted, 36 percent of all New Orleans shooting incidents between 2010 and present have produced a fatality. Robberies that result in a shooting, however, turned fatal 46 percent between 2011 and 2014.
There are a few possible explanations that come to mind for why this may be the case. The most logical rationale, to me, is that distance between a perpetrator and victim is likely a major factor in whether a shooting ends in a fatality. Armed robberies tend to put victim and shooter close to one another, so it stands to reason that armed robberies that turn violent have a higher chance of ending in a fatality because the shooter is close to his or her victim.
A second plausible explanation is that 116 shooting incidents is too small a sample to make a firm judgement in this case. The first 116 shootings of 2015, for example, resulted in 52 fatal shootings (45 percent fatal), suggesting a larger sample size is needed for any definitive conclusion on this matter.
New Orleans is experiencing more armed robberies in 2014 and 2015 than in the 2011 to 2013 period. Ultimately, this analysis illustrates how armed robberies are unlikely to end in a shooting. While those crimes can be extremely traumatic, the available evidence shows they were producing fewer shooting incidents in 2014 than they did in the preceding three years.