In January, when the number of shots-fired calls in Davenport moved in the dozens, I asked, “Is this normal?” At first, the answer was yes. Davenport has for years had its share of gun violence. But as we got deeper into January, we realized there had been a shots fired call almost every day that month. We realized we were on pace to have three times more gun violence in 2016 than in 2015. We saw that the number had been increasing year over year.
A teenage girl was found on the ground, alone in the middle of a residential street, with a gunshot wound this past weekend. She was the ninth person to be injured by gunfire in Davenport since Jan. 1. And the call was one of five shots fired incidents reported in Davenport between Saturday and Monday.
Every time we write a story about another shooting or a shots-fired call, I see the comments on our site and on our Facebook page: “I’m ready to move out of Davenport.” “This is too much. I don’t want my children living around this.”
Police have told us repeatedly that it isn’t wise to compare year over year numbers. So where do we start the conversation to address a growing feeling of unease?
I was a geography/anthropology major, so I have a core belief that many of the world’s problems can be understood by mapping them.
Others agree. The December cover story of Modern Healthcare suggested gun violence could be studied like any other public health issue, by mapping each case. The article argued that mapping incidents could help identify patterns and a “patient zero.” We hoped they were right.
We’ve been collecting every shots-fired incident into a map online to see what we can learn. (Check it out at http://bit.ly/1nLj8SR)
Here’s the problem. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern, only escalation and randomness.
A woman was shot on Valentine’s Day as she walked along East 12th Street just before midnight.
A man was injured by broken glass when a bullet hit his vehicle in the early afternoon near the intersection of East Locust and Grand.
In early February, about a dozen shots rang out around 9:30 p.m. on East Sixth Street. A woman was wounded.
Where’s patient zero? The violence isn’t in one neighborhood or even one part of town. It seems to be everywhere and the shootings appear to be unrelated to one another.
It’s just a set of symptoms, but symptoms of what?
Is it poverty? The second week of January, after we had already seen eight incidents, Rev. Daniel Teague told the Quad-City Times that addressing unemployment issues is a start to tackling gun violence and other crime. And this week, after a 15-year-old boy allegedly shot a 17-year-old female in the head and left her in the road to die, Mayor Frank Klipsch said the crimes need to solved and arrests made, but there needs to be a long-term solution, which includes making sure youth have a sense of hope.
Here’s what we do know. Gun violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s tied to absolutely everything else we’re trying to accomplish here in the Quad-Cities.
If people don’t feel safe, they don’t leave their homes at night or they simply move away. If you think it’s just an issue in “those neighborhoods,” look at our map.
If you think this isn’t your problem, you’re wrong. This might be the bigger problem we’re facing as a community right now. It’s eroding the way people feel about this place.
Poverty and its ripple effects must be a part of any economic development discussion. It’s a heavy anchor ready to weigh down any efforts to be “cool, creative, connected, prosperous.”
“Is this normal?” I asked in January. We can’t let it be.
Autumn Phillips is the executive editor of the Quad-City Times. 563-383-2264; email@example.com; on Twitter @autumnedit.