Numbers show decrease in gun violence

About the statistics

The statistics used in this story were obtained through a Kansas Open Records request to the Lawrence Police Department. The department provided the information for a fee of $283, which paid for the staff time required to fulfill the request.

Shootings and other firearm and weapons-related crimes in Lawrence have dropped significantly since 2006, according to data provided by the Lawrence Police Department.

A Journal-World open-records request revealed the following about firearm and weapons-related crimes in Lawrence:

• Confirmed shootings reached a five-year high in 2009, at 40, but dropped to 14 in 2010 and 11 in 2011.

• Crimes involving a firearm averaged 51 per year between 2006 and 2011, but dropped to 37 in 2011.

•Reports of disturbances with weapons dropped from 170 in 2006 to 106 in 2011.

•The number of guns seized by police dropped from 200 in 2006 to 71 in 2011.

•There have been no shooting deaths in Lawrence since 2008.

Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib said reducing gun violence remains a high priority within the department.

“As much as possible, we concentrate on gun and gun violence crimes from an investigative standpoint,” he said.

The local decrease in such crimes and reports follows a national trend of declining violent crime, said Michael Birzer, a criminal justice professor at Wichita State University. But why they’ve dropped is a complicated question.

“There are a constellation of factors,” Birzer said. “I don’t think you can lock down one single factor.”

Some of the decrease could be attributable to the natural fluctuation of crime statistics and how police categorize certain crimes. But Birzer said efforts by law enforcement to make streets and communities safer, through proactive community policing, shouldn’t be discounted as one of the factors.

“A big part of it is policing strategies,” Birzer said.

Khatib echoed some of Birzer’s comments about natural ebbs and flows in crime statistics. But Khatib also said his department has worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the prosecution of gun crimes that are federal offenses.

Even with decreases in shooting crimes, it’s common for public perception to lag behind the statistics and for the public to believe violent crime and shootings are on the rise, Birzer said. That can be especially true with high-profile violent incidents, such as the July shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater and the recent shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

“It brings the attention back to gun crimes,” he said.

Confirmed shootings in 2011

Lawrence police were able to provide statistics about shootings as far back as 2006 and detailed information about the 11 confirmed shootings in 2011.

Those 11 cases run the gamut of seriousness and include everything from police finding shell casings after a report of gunshots to a suspect firing a gun into a crowd of people. No one was injured in any of the cases, according to police.

Two of the more high-profile cases occurred at area bars. In June, an unidentified man fired a gun into a crowd of people gathered outside The Cave, 1200 Oread Ave., following a fight. In October, a 21-year-old Leavenworth man shot at employees of Taste Lounge, 804 W. 24th St. Two months later, a 28-year-old Lawrence man fired a weapon at a person near the same club, which has since had its license revoked by the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Commission after a third shooting this year.