What To Know Today

Philadelphia may get a new police unit targeting nonfatal shootings. While nothing has been announced, local CBS Eyewitness News reports that the Police Department is readying the launch of a new unit that will include 40 detectives and collaborate with the department’s homicide division. A focus on nonfatal shootings echoes recommendations from criminologists on how to effectively curb violence. Crime researcher Anthony Braga wrote in a recent study that ​“effective investigation of shootings can help prevent further cascades of gun violence in cities by deterring retaliation and incapacitating violent individuals who could persist in their crimes or end up as victims of retaliatory shootings.” And as The Trace has reported, the failure to solve shootings in cities across the country is especially pronounced for Black and Hispanic victims.

A call for expanding how we look at city violent crime rates over time. Last year’s 29 percent increase in homicides nationwide has only continued or worsened in a number of large cities this year. We’ve cautioned before that it’s important to note that nationwide violence rates are still well below those of the early 1990s. But in a thought-provoking blog post, criminologist John Shjarback suggests we should “move beyond looking at cities as the unit of analysis” before discounting the intensity of the current spike. He points to congressional testimony last week from Roseanna Ander, executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Ander told the Senate Judiciary Committee that while overall homicides in Chicago are lower than in the early 1990s, rates in the city’s four most violent districts have worsened, as have the disparities between the city’s most and least violent areas. Shjarback applied Ander’s methods to New York. While the city’s stats were not as stark — its overall rates were lower, its most violent precincts were still below the early 1990s, and the disparities between the most and least violent areas were less striking — the trends in the last few years were generally intensifying.

John Shjarback

Detroit woman is the latest person killed by police while carrying a toy gun. The incident occurred Sunday evening after a 33-year-old woman reportedly pointed a firearm at customers at a gas station. Responding officers shot and killed her and, police said Monday, only later realized the gun had been a nonlethal weapon. Since 2015, police have fatally shot at least 249 people — including 30 this year — while they were in possession of a toy or pellet gun, according to The Washington Post’s police shooting database. As The Trace reported, toy guns are regularly designed to mirror their real-life counterparts, often down to precise details. And at least two dozen gun companies allow airsoft gun manufacturers to use their brands and likenesses this way. 

Federal appeals court agrees to pause California’s large-capacity magazine ban. Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals restored California’s ban on magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets, which was first struck down in 2019 in part on the assertion it infringed on residents’ Second Amendment rights. On Monday, the 9th Circuit agreed to gun rights advocates’ request to stay the part of the law that bans possession of high-capacity magazines while they prepare to petition the Supreme Court.

Data Point

150 — the number of school-related threats in the week after the mass shooting in Oxford, Michigan, by one researcher’s count. For comparison, the same researcher counted 151 school threats in the entire month of September. [The Washington Post]