What Numbers Matter? Not Just Homicide

Numbers drive us, but sometimes they aren’t the right numbers.

Thirty years ago I was trying to understand violence in Detroit. I was a reporter with the Detroit Free Press. All we had then from the FBI were total crimes for each city.

That didn’t tell us how the cities compared.

So, I called and calculated city populations and sad to say Detroit was a leader among big cities, when adjusted for its population, in the figures I used then – homicides.

But times and health care have changed and I think that homicides should not be the sole measure for telling us how violence touches our lives and our cities.

Why Homicides Don’t Tell All

Because so many more people survive attacks once considered fatal, thanks to the medical emergency lessons we’ve learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and better trauma care, we need to look elsewhere to understand what’s taking place.

Counting shootings is one source. Here in Chicago we see roughly four shootings for every homicide though the ratio was higher last year. And the number of shootings went up in 2012 as compared to 2011.

What else can we look at?

We can focus on key trauma centers and measure admissions. We can look at the kinds of injuries people suffer in violent attacks. We know that more youths have been disabled in violence. How many more are paralyzed and disabled today as compared to five years ago?

We can look at the percent of cases solved involving violent incidents.

This might lead us to analyzing the problems that police encounter with victims and the folks who carry out the violence. It might tell us more about the communities trapped in violence.

Join Us On Jan. 29

And what else?  Talk to us.

You can talk to us and learn also about what’s taking place in Chicago in the effort to deal with youth violence on Jan. 29th.

That’s when we are holding our gathering of community groups, experts and activists and news media. Think speed interviewing.  This is a chance to expand your resources, and to expand the range of stories you might consider.

It’s a chance to go beyond what you’ve reported on before by listening to what’s going on in Chicago.

The event will take place from 10 am to noon at

photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz

here on the rolling city campus of Columbia College.

So, if you want to join us, let me know. Steve Franklin 312 369 6400 or steve@chicagoistheworld.org

And here’s the latest figures from Detroit. Tragedy persists.




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