Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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[Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto]

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Chicago is forming a new unit to fight violent crime. The announcement came after three consecutive weekends that saw at least 65 people shot, including several children — and hours after the hyperlocal news outlet CWB Chicago obtained internal police documents revealing that the department is “disbanding its gang, gun, and saturation teams.” The department said the new unit will “tackle violent crime and create community partnerships in some of our most challenging areas” by rapidly deploying officers to hotspots. An earlier incarnation of the unit was scuttled in 2011 amid concerns that it exacerbated tensions between police and communities of color. Officers assigned to the new unit will combine rapid-response policing with community engagement and youth mentoring, according to the department.

According to one anti-violence advocate, the strategy does little to address the root causes of gun violence: In an impassioned speech on Wednesday, Jamal Cole of My Block, My Hood, My City said a better solution for curbing shootings in Chicago is investment in communities: “Gun violence is a reflection of racial and economic injustice, poor neighborhoods, under-resourced schools, high incarceration rates and high unemployment rates. You don’t have to show up everywhere with a gun and a badge.”

NEW from THE TRACE: Early research suggests that the recent surge in gun buying is linked to increased gun violence. In Monday’s Bulletin we reported on a preliminary study from the University of California, Davis, that found an association between the pandemic-related gun sales spike and increased shootings. Trace contributor Melinda Wenner Moyer spoke with the study’s authors, and today has a story that goes deeper into the findings. Read on for more.

Philadelphia’s crime data reporting lag obscures the scope of gun violence. In recent weeks, we’ve been bringing you a steady stream of news about gun violence in cities where it’s spiking, like Philadelphia, where more than 900 people have been shot WHYY’s Billy Penn reveals that there’s one person responsible for compiling shootings in the city, and he’s often got a long to-do list. The city’s crime stats hub, Open Data Philly, is updated every day just after midnight, but it’s often incomplete. Weekly reports should be out every Monday morning, but they’re often late. A police sergeant told the outlet that the officer who leads the operation is usually “backed up with 1,500 other things.” Penn notes that New York City and Baltimore are currently a week behind in their reporting of crime stats.

D.C. votes to restore funding for violence interruption programs. In pre-COVID February, Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a budget that cut 11 percent in funding for some programs. This week the D.C. Council voted to restore a total of $3.65 million to the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and the district attorney general’s Cure the Streets program. “This is not the year to take our foot off the gas when using every tool to prevent violence,” one council member said. So far this year, homicides are up 21 percent in the District. As The Trace has reported, violence interrupters have been doing double duty during the pandemic, educating communities about infection prevention while also mediating conflicts.

Seven people were shot in New Jersey. Four of the victims died in the incident at an intersection in Paterson late Tuesday. No arrests have been made. It’s the third mass shooting since Monday. Earlier on Tuesday, five teenagers were wounded in a shooting at an apartment building in Alexandria, Virginia. On Monday, six people were wounded when someone opened fire into a crowd in Chicago.

The family of a Colorado man killed by a park ranger is suing the federal government. Charles Lorentz, 25, was fatally shot by National Parks Service Ranger Robert Mitchell during a traffic stop near Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico in March. The ranger said he pulled Lorentz over for driving erratically. Witnesses said Mitchell lunged at Lorentz. Bodycam footage shows Lorentz cooperating before Mitchell fires a taser. The video cuts out for 26 seconds, then shows the ranger on top of Lorentz and opening fire. The ranger waited 12 minutes to administer first aid, a local news station reported. In a recently filed complaint against the Parks Service and the Department of Interior, Lorentz’s family claims the National Park Service never notified them of his death, and still hasn’t contacted them. Mitchell is on administrative leave while the investigation proceeds.

DATA POINT

At least 21 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S. so far this year. Fourteen of them were shot. Human Rights Campaign