Lacking Control Groups Beat Down Troubled Minneapolis Neighborhoods

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Shots Fired map do a good job showing where shots are fired showing were shots spotter microphones are installed.

Shots Fired

The StarTribune misinterpreted this data like this:

It’s a valuable public service to put out this public information, but the sheer number of red circles is a sad commentary on the dangerous state of some Minneapolis neighborhoods.

There are no shot spotter microphones in my neighborhood. Does that mean that there were no shots fired or that there were no shots recorded? It’s hard to say without consistent collection of data across the city.

My issue here is that, yes, there are neighborhoods that have problems with gun violence. But, if you only look for problems in certain neighborhoods, you’re going to create the illusion that those neighborhoods are in worse relative to other neighborhoods than they really are.

That said, the blue stars where someone actually got shot are probably a more accurate reflection of where gun violence is a problem. While shots aren’t recorded consistently, the meeting of a bullet with a body tends to get logged regardless of neighborhood.

5 thoughts on “Lacking Control Groups Beat Down Troubled Minneapolis Neighborhoods”

  1. Agreed; I’ve often thought the same thing. OTOH, there are not too many stars far from the red dots.

    Do you know if there is any data on where all the shotspotter systems are installed? That should be on the graph too – but presumably it correlates about 1:1 with the red dots …

  2. That explains why that backfiring truck that rumbled down 46th Ave So on 12/20 didn’t record any shots fired. I’m no microphone, but to my ears those sounded like shots, with the only clue they weren’t was the accompanying stutter of the faulty engine of the truck. Note to self…mask my future gunshots by hiring a bad mechanic first.

  3. @Eric, I haven’t seen data on where the shotspotters have been installed, but I have only seen them in the locations where the gunshots have been recorded, so I imagine the correlation is pretty darn close.

    Another thing about this data visualization that bugs me: if there are multiple calls to 911 based on a shot being fired, does each show up as a red dot? As in, could one shot generate multiple dots on the map?

  4. Other Mike, I’ve spoken with 4th Precinct officers who say that the shot spotters are rather good at distinguishing gunfire vs. fireworks or cars backfiring (although it’s my understanding that modern cars simply don’t backfire, so I find it more likely that you’re being facetious or mistaken).

    Ed, based on conversations with the same people I can tell you that they do filter the data so that multiple 911 calls for the same incident show up as only one incident.

    And when I spoke to the Strib reporter about the shot spotters this last week, I did tell him exactly what you’ve written here. Shot spotter data is useful for comparing shots fired only to other areas with shot spotters.

  5. What is the criteria for getting a shot spotter installed in a neighborhood? I have one in my neighborhood, but it seems pretty meaningless except to dramatize the ever present danger our community members face. The maps produced simply perpetuate the decline in livability by scaring away responsible homesteaders.

    Unfortunately, Minneapolis law enforcement seems to be stuck in a reactive mode where unless an innocent bystander is injured, a policy of “No Harm, No Foul” exists. Most of this activity is thug vs, thug. Why spend valuable resources on prevention?

    But, the police department can not be held completely responsible for this lack of attentiveness. It takes it’s cues from the City of Minneapolis who seem happy to confine and perpetuate the problems of poverty and crime in North Minneapolis.

    Rybak and other politician attend demonstrations to decry the violence yet back legislation and initiatives which concentrate poverty in NoMi.

    The shot spotters are a good start but much more is needed.

    The spotter data dramatically shows where the problem areas exist. In all probability the offenders live very close by those locations and other deviant criminal behaviors are also present.

    Why not add cameras to those listening units so that gun toting offenders can be identified and apprehended?

    How about some true “community policing” that puts officers into those neighborhoods so they can identify criminal activity before it escalates to gun violence?

    Why isn’t problem properties working with law enforcement to eliminate the bad rental properties that breed this behavior in our neighborhoods?

    Why aren’t the States Nuisance Laws upheld by the City and County Attorney’s offices?

    I hope that the recent events of a innocent young child’s murder will dramatize the potential of allowing these conditions to linger and induce more proactive measures to help strengthen Northside Neighborhoods.

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