Giving Compass' Take:
- Ted Alcorn explains Denver's effort to reduce gun violence by solving nonfatal shootings.
- How can you support efforts to reduce gun violence in your area?
- Learn more about how communities can approach gun violence in U.S. cities.
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In 2020, responding to an uptick in gun violence, [Denver]’s police department adopted the uncontroversial but unusual approach of seriously trying to solve every nonfatal shooting. Officials created a new unit, the Firearm Assault Shoot Team, or FAST, devoted solely to the task.
Over the last three years, FAST has cleared hundreds of shootings, arresting suspects or issuing warrants for their capture at nearly triple the department’s previous rate for these violent crimes. The effort has shown that when detectives have the time, resources and commitment, they can resolve most shootings.
And it raises uncomfortable questions about why police departments across the rest of the country do not.
Historically, Denver’s gun murder rate has been about average among large American cities. Minorities have borne a disproportionate share of the violence: An analysis by the Public Health Institute at Denver Health found that Black people in Denver were about five times as likely to be murdered with guns as White people between 2011 and 2015.
But the police department usually solved the homicides. In 2013, the U.S. Justice Department selected the city for a report on best practices for making homicide arrests.
Nonfatal shootings were not treated the same way, however. These crimes fell to officers in each of Denver’s six police districts, who were handling all manner of cases and upwards of 250 a year.
In a country wracked by gun violence, it’s surprising this deficit has not gotten more attention. Cook’s research shows that part of the solution is for police departments to sustain longer investigations into nonfatal shootings, rather than allow them to flag.
Read the full article about policing and gun violence by Ted Alcorn at The Marshall Project.