Violence fell in many places across the country last year; per crime researcher Jeff Asher, murders in 175 cities dropped by an average of 12 percent compared to 2022 — but the decline in Rochester, New York, was particularly remarkable. After hitting an all-time high in 2021, reports the Democrat and Chronicle, murders dropped by 32 percent; nonfatal shootings dropped by nearly the same amount. What’s behind the dramatic decline?
As The Trace’s Chip Brownlee reported in September, in a story about a pronounced drop in shootings in New Orleans, there’s no easy answer for why violent crime fell in the U.S. last year. Irshad Altheimer, who leads the Rochester Institute for Technology’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives, told the Democrat and Chronicle that before the pandemic-era spike, it was normal for homicide rates in the city to rise and fall anywhere from 15 to 20 percent annually. But, Altheimer said, that doesn’t mean local efforts don’t have a role to play.
Last year, Rochester invested millions in community-based violence prevention efforts and created a police task force to investigate nonfatal shootings as if they were homicides; violence prevention workers canvassed neighborhoods, and the city’s numerous anti-violence organizations continued their work of coordinating emergency housing, mediating conflict, and mentoring young people.
The decline is promising, but experts say this is no time to get complacent. Researchers still need to understand what prompted the drop, and gun violence is still an everyday occurance in many communities. As one Rochester violence prevention worker said, every effort counts; reaching even just one person could mean one less death. Ernest Johnson, director of a New Orleans nonprofit and community organization, framed it another way for Brownlee last year: “One life is too many. The focus is us reducing [violence] to its lowest point.”
What to Know Today
A Michigan jury found Jennifer Crumbley guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, holding that she is responsible for her son shooting and killing four students at Oxford High School in 2021. Her conviction marks the first time in the U.S. that a parent has been held criminally responsible for a child carrying out a mass school shooting. Crumbley’s husband is also charged with involuntary manslaughter; his trial is slated to begin next month. [Detroit Free Press/Associated Press]
A Black family from Colorado whose four underage daughters were held at gunpoint by police in August 2020 reached a $1.9 million settlement with the city of Aurora. The family’s lawyer — whose firm also handled a $15 million settlement for the family of Elijah McClain, a Black man killed in Aurora police custody after an unjustified stop — said he believes the large settlements may be spurring better police conduct in the city. [The Washington Post]
In Louisiana, where lawmakers haven’t enacted an extreme risk protection order measure, the process of taking guns away from someone who may be a danger to themselves or others is onerous, and can sometimes take years. Mental health professionals and law enforcement officers say the current system, exacerbated by a lack of resources for people experiencing a mental health crisis, isn’t enough. [The Advocate]
For nearly a decade, lawmakers in Tennessee have been trying to pass a measure that would penalize gun owners who leave a loaded firearm accessible to a child. Dubbed “MaKayla’s Law,” the bill is named after an 8-year-old whose 11-year-old neighbor shot and killed her with his father’s shotgun. [WKRN]
An Oregon disability rights organization is suing the state’s second-largest county over claims that its response to mental health emergencies is discriminatory. The federal lawsuit alleges that Washington County, part of the Portland metropolitan area, routinely places people with disabilities in harm’s way by sending armed police officers, rather than its trained behavioral health teams, to respond to mental health-related emergencies. [Oregon Capital Chronicle]
The 9th Circuit ruled that California can continue enforcing a law requiring background checks for most ammunition purchases while legal challenges play out, putting U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez’s declaration last week that the rule is unconstitutional on hold. The federal appeals panel decision echoes the similarly quick reversal of a Benitez ruling on the same law in 2020. [Reuters]