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Why Is Gun Violence Rising in D.C., Memphis and Greensboro?

While the rates of gun violence are falling in many places, there is a small handful where it is rising. New Orleans-based crime analyst Jeff Asher says that none of the places with surging murders publishes specific shooting data, and "trying to explain the outliers is more challenging than coming up with explanations for the norm."

Asher's murder dashboard has updated data for 171 cities and murder is down in around 70 percent of them.

There are 77 cities with data available through the end of September and had at least 20 or more murders through September 2022. Of the 77 cities that fit the criteria, murder is up 20 percent or more in four of them while murder is down 20 percent or more in 31 of them.

Seattle is close at +19.1 percent, but gun violence is not surging in Seattle given that the city’s shooting data shows just one more shooting victim in 2023 than in 2022 through October.

The four cities with big rises in murder this year based on the above criteria are Memphis, Washington, D.C., Greensborn, N.C., and Shreveport, La.

Other places are seeing increasing murders this year — like Dallas, Kansas City, and Columbus — but the increases are more muted and could be due to randomness, Asher says.

Why is murder, and specifically fatal shootings, surging in a few cities while it plunges across much of the country? Firearm murders were declining in D.C. Memphis, and Greensboro in the latter half of 2022, so much so that all three had fewer firearm murders in 2022 than in 2021. That decline shifted to an increase sometime in the beginning of 2023 in all three cities.

There is a clear event that may have contributed to rising gun violence in Memphis — the killing of Tyre Nichols in early January 2023.

D.C. and Greensboro have no such obvious external events.

It does not make sense for increasing gun violence in those cities to be driven by the same factors that are driving killings in Memphis up while cities much closer geographically are not clearly affected.

The most compelling answer to this riddle is that these cities are outliers, Asher concludes.


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