There were 23 shooting incidents and 7 fatal shooting incidents in August 2015, making it the least violent month in New Orleans since December 2013. It was a sharp dropoff from July, which saw 48 shootings.
Through August, there have been 268 shootings with 107 fatal shootings (39.9 percent fatal) so far in 2015. The changing pace of shootings in 2015 with the rolling 30-day pace of shootings is shown below.
2015 Pace of Shootings, August 2015. Source: NOPD.
As of the end of August, New Orleans is on pace for 402 shootings and 180 murders by the end of the year. These numbers, if realized, would represent a 6.8 percent decline in shootings, but a 20.2 percent increase in murder from 2014’s totals. (Head here for an explanation of why this appears to be happening in 2015.)
The New Orleans Neighborhood Gun Violence Index for August 2015 breaks down shootings by their geographic location. Little Woods and the French Quarter have seen the most gun violence relative to their annual average in the last 60 days, while there have been no shootings in St. Claude or Treme over that span.
New Orleans Gun Violence Index, August 2015. Source: NOPD.
There is no clear explanation for why gun violence fell off so severely from where it was from May through July. There were no new city strategies implemented in August, no evacuations or other external events, and the weather was mostly very hot and, for a few days, quite pleasant.
Evaluating shooting data from 2010 to present suggests a few explanations for the drop in murder and gun violence. Regarding murder, only 30.4 percent of shooting incidents ended in a fatality in August, making it only the second month in 2015 in which such incidents fell below the expected 36 percent Fatal Shooting Percentage. By comparison, a combined 43.5 percent of 85 shootings in June and July ended in a fatality.
Explaining why fatal shootings fell relative to total shootings is fairly unclear; it’s largely random. But explaining why shootings dropped citywide is more challenging. The data suggest at least three possibilities.
Possiblity 1 – Shootings Slow Down in August
The easiest but least satisfying answer is that shootings have slowed down in August during each of the last three years, for reasons unknown. There were 31 shootings in August 2012, 21 in August 2013 and 33 in August 2014. There is no obvious similarity between each of those months, but each slowed that year’s annual pace. The slowdown in August may simply be the continuation of a trend seen in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Possibility 2 – July Was Extraordinarily Violent
One probable explanation is that shootings dropped in August because July was so violent. There were 48 shootings in July 2015, making just the eighth time since January 2010 that New Orleans has had more than 45 shootings in a single month. In each of those eight cases, there were far fewer shooting incidents the following month, with decreases ranging from 14 percent to 54 percent. The average month following a month with over 45 shootings saw a 25.2 percent decline in gun violence.
Possibility 3 – Fewer Discharges, Fewer Hits
A secondary explanation for why gun violence declined in August is related to the Fatal Shooting Percentage, we’ll call it the Discharge-Shooting Percentage. On average, for every incident where a person is shot in New Orleans, there are more than seven reports of a firearm being discharged. The majority of these reported discharges are considered unfounded (75 percent in 2015, for example) but there is a fairly good correlation between the number of reports of firearm discharge and the number of shootings (R = .458) in any given month.
Lots of these incidents are considered unfounded for good reason; a car backfires, or a firework or door slamming sounds is mistaken for a gunshot. But there are also many incidents like the shootout inApril on Magazine Street, in which many shots were fired in broad daylight but nobody was hit.
I recently submitted a public-records request and can now analyze gun violence records from 2010 to 2015. This enhanced data shows 2,412 shooting incidents and 17,630 firearm discharge reports from January 2010 through August 2015. In sum, the number of shootings in any given year is 13.68 percent of the number of firearm discharge reports. The numbers are very consistent.
All of which brings us to August. As the table above shows, the ratio of shooting incidents to firearm discharges is right at the expected percentage in 2015. But in August, only 11 percent of August firearm discharges resulted in a shooting.
By this measure, August’s lower shooting number was partly a reversion to the expected mean. For one reason or another — randomness, perhaps — the shooters apparently missed their targets more than they typically do.
The final four months of 2015 will be critical to the narrative of New Orleans’ gun violence. If the last four months resemble January through April, then the city will have seen fairly substantial shooting reductions in both 2013 and 2015 relative to 2010-2012 totals.