The new year was two hours old when gunfire echoed through the Davenport neighborhood around West 17th and North Sturdevant streets.
A man was shot and taken to the hospital, but was expected to survive. It was the first of three confirmed shootings in the first three days of 2020.
Larry Nelson lives on Sturdevant, a stone's throw from West Locust Street. He "is not concerned" about reports of gunfire.
"I have a damn gun in the house, that's why," Nelson said a day after the Jan. 1 shooting. "In fact, you're lucky you walked up here in daylight. We are well aware of the incidents in town and we are armed and ready if someone tries to bring that stuff on to our property. That will solve any problem pretty quick."
Nelson's attitudes about gun violence were shared by some of his neighbors, while other voices along his block and throughout Davenport — including two elected officials — offered differing takes on a violent start to 2020.
There were just over 190 confirmed instances of shots fired in Davenport during 2019. The Davenport Police Department was asked to comment on the New Year's violence and did not respond before the publication of this story.
"I think a lot of the shooting comes down to a bunch of crazy kids who don't want to work. Or there aren't jobs — but they are uneducated people who think they can steal," Nelson said. "These kids probably think they are worth more than they are. Maybe part of it is they want attention, I don't know. But they will meet their maker — not by me, but you can't go around shooting without eventually getting shot."
Some of Nelson's neighbors appear to hold similar attitudes. One home near 12th and Sturdevant streets features a large placard of a man holding a scoped rifle and bears the words "Say Hello to my Little Friend."
Others see the Sturdevant neighborhood as safe.
"There have been incidents here and there — like any neighborhood," said Virginia Ott, 68, who has lived on Sturdevant for over 20 years. "There are times when things happen, but I don't live here in fear. That's just the truth. If you want a really good story, go over to the old Marycrest buildings at the end of the block here (Marycrest Senior Campus on 12th Street, formerly Marycrest College).
"I worked there for a few years. Those buildings are haunted. Here on this block? It's not scary."
New Year's Day gunfire paused for a few hours, but Jan. 1 ended with more shooting in the area of 15th and Washington streets. The incident left glass in the road and nervous drivers posting warnings on Facebook.
Alderman Ray Ambrose lives on Washington Street and has represented the Fourth Ward for 22 years.
"I hear the shots fired all the time, sometimes we see it, and it is the No. 1 reason why people talk to me," Ambrose said. "I think what drives me and other people crazy is that we aren't locking up the habitual criminals.
"Felons are not held accountable by our judges — and our justice system is pathetic."
Ambrose said he felt " ... the Davenport Police was doing a fine job until the Obama administration came along and his Justice Department put our police under a microscope."
The Obama administration investigated about two dozen municipal police departments, in cities like Chicago, Baltimore and Los Angeles, over what it considered unconstitutional policing, use of excessive force and other misconduct, according to media reports. President Trump's Justice Department has scaled back on such investigations.
Ambrose thinks things will get better.
"This administration is working closely with law enforcement — so it will get better from that standpoint," Ambrose said. "But it's up to the judges to make sure we follow through and hold people accountable. People have to feel safe in their homes. To do that, judges need to take habitual criminals off the street."
The new year's third shooting was in a less residential area.
Early Friday, Jan. 3, a dramatic and dangerous scene unfolded along River Drive, a rolling shootout in the 500 block of East 3rd Street and River Drive. The driver of a shot-up Chevy Trail Blazer drove over a curb to abandon the SUV in the Quad-City Times parking lot.
The shootout did not generate much attention.
"In no way do I want to downplay gun violence — so I want to tread lightly when I say this: I don't get a lot of calls about general concern about gun violence," Third Ward Alderwoman Marion Megennis said. "My ward covers a lot of territory, and I lived near the corner of 6th and Gaines for 22 years. So there have been incidents, very serious incidents. Shenanigan's Pub was another issue we worked very hard on."
The city tried for years to take away the bar's liquor license. In December, a brawl broke out outside the bar, shots were fired, and bullets entered two nearby buildings. That final straw led to a termination of the bar's lease. The building is now for sale.
Meginnis said reports of gunfire on Oak and 6th streets led to a number of calls.
"So very specific instances will spark calls. But, honestly, do you want to know what I get called most about? It's about people running car repair shops on private property. I get calls about parking issues, like cars parked on grass."
Meginnis said some of the wider perceptions of violence could be wrapped up in broader assumptions about geography and populations.
"We all hear people talk about 'south of Locust Street' and I think we still see tons of racism," Meginnis said. "It's an undertone that's never said, but it is there.
"I think if you go to neighborhoods and really talk with people, most people — even south of Locust Street —will say they feel safe. Again, in no way do I think we treat gun violence lightly. But our perceptions shouldn't automatically make us feel unsafe."