The aim of this essay is to discuss how the Rochester Shooting Database (RSD) can be utilized to expand knowledge on shootings and guide violence intervention programs. Gun violence is a serious problem in the United States. Every year thousands of Americans are shot or killed as a result of gun violence. The majority of shootings occur in urban areas, and a significant amount of urban shootings occur in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods where African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately involved as both offenders and victims. An impressive body of literature exists on this topic. This research has established the important role that neighborhood characteristics play in shaping the processes that lead to lethal victimization (Wilkinson, 2003), the contexts in which violent victimization occurs (Stewart and Simons, 2006), as well as the nature of violent victimization in socially disadvantaged areas (Kubrin, 2003). Despite these advances, however, important questions remain.
One barrier to expanding knowledge on gun violence in America is the lack of sufficient crime data to critically assess important empirical questions. Much of the existing research examining violent crime has utilized self-report or victimization survey data. These data often produce samples that have too few shooting victims to allow for the separate consideration of shootings, and are unable to provide characteristics of shooting offenders, victims, or situations. Another area of research on shootings attempts to identify patterns of shootings across space and time. This research has been critical in identifying shooting hotspots and linkages between hotspots overtime (see Braga, Papachristos, and Hureau, 2010), but these analyses often fail to consider possible linkages between hotspots and characteristics of individuals or situations. The failure to adequately address these issues is not just a concern for theoretical criminologists. To the extent that public policy should be guided by sound theory, our failure to understand the nature of these problems may limit our ability to craft adequate solutions to reduce them.
In an attempt to address some of the shortcomings associated with shooting data, the Center for Public Safety Initiatives (CPSI) has partnered with the Rochester Police Department (RPD) and the Monroe Crime Analysis Center (MCAC) to develop the RSD. This essay will discuss how the RSD can be utilized to expand what we know about shootings and guide criminal justice violence interventions. This paper is divided into three sections. Section One provides a brief introduction to the RSD. Section Two identifies the key research areas that can be examined with the newly developed dataset. Section Three discusses the policy implications of the research.