Even as he sought to reassure residents alarmed after a recent spike in gun violence, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said Monday he remains concerned about a notable increase in nonfatal shootings over the past few months.

He said the department recorded about 28 percent more nonfatal shooting victims within the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. Paul commented on the issue while speaking to reporters Monday afternoon at the Baton Rouge Press Club, saying the numbers are concerning. 

"That's why we're treating nonfatal shootings with the same urgency as homicides — because today's nonfatal could be tomorrow's homicide," he said. "We are doing that now."

Data compiled by the Baton Rouge Police Department show that more than 20 people have been injured in nonfatal shootings during each of the past three months. BRPD tracks according to the number of victims, rather than the number of incidents, since more than one person could be injured in a single shooting.

The numbers don't include shots fired calls that result in no injuries.

The figures provided to the Advocate show that nonfatal shootings between January and June increased from 99 victims in 2018 to 127 this year, which is an increase of 28 percent. Homicide numbers have not seen a similar increase this year, so far trailing behind both 2018 and 2017 as officials remain optimistic that gun violence deaths will continue trending downward.

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But a rash of violence the weekend before last — including the shooting at a nightclub on Florida Boulevard that left seven injured — set residents on edge. Officials said it was an anomaly, not part of a larger problem. 

"As your mayor-president, I want to convey a feeling of measured calm," East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said during a public meeting last week to address recent shootings. "Certainly we have challenges, but this is not Gotham City." 

Paul also said at the meeting that crime overall remains down in Baton Rouge. He reiterated that point Monday, saying the dramatic spike in gunshot injuries that resulted from the nightclub attack and other incidents that same weekend is out of the norm for the community. 

Summer months tend to be the most violent in urban areas, including Baton Rouge, which has seen homicides climb within recent weeks as temperatures have also risen. 

"I'm a little concerned," Paul said. "But I remain optimistic that by the end of the year, we will see an even greater reduction in crime."

The chief, who took office in January 2018, has focused on the importance of public cooperation in helping detectives solve crimes and hold criminals accountable. 

He said he's confident that arrests in two of the recent shooting cases are forthcoming thanks to tips from witnesses. He didn't disclose which two cases. 

In addition to the nightclub shooting, that same weekend saw three people injured in an armed robbery on Jasper Avenue in the Gardere area. And a teenage girl was shot in the parking lot of a movie theater near the Mall of Louisiana.

The following Tuesday a woman was found with gunshot injuries walking along Interstate 10 after police said she had been shot while inside a vehicle and then left on the side of the road. All of the victims have survived their injuries.

"I just wanted to reassure the public that we are doing our job and we are investigating all leads to determine who was responsible," Paul told the Press Club Monday. "Our detectives are working diligently to solve those crimes."

Baton Rouge police started tracking nonfatal shooting numbers in 2018, which Paul said is part of the department's larger push to track and analyze as much data as possible, using it to inform their policing strategies. 

He said the focus on nonfatal shootings also falls under the reach of Baton Rouge's new Crime Gun Intelligence Center, which is a federal, state and local partnership that works to better respond to gun violence as a whole instead of focusing primarily on homicides. 

Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.