How Often Do D.C. Students Hear Gunshots? A Lot.
D.C. had 336 incidents of gunfire during school days over the 2011-2012 school year, with more than half of those incidents occurring within 1,000 feet of a public school, a new report from the Urban Institute found.
The study, released today, looked at data collected from Shotspotter, a gunfire-detection system covering about a third of D.C. In the 2011-2012 school year, D.C. had 175 traditional public and public charter schools, and 116 of them were in Shotspotter's range. One thousand feet, the study says, is close enough for the gunshots to be heard from inside.
Nine percent of the 116 schools experienced 48 percent of the gunfire incidents. Four schools, according to the study, were each within 500 feet of nine to 11 incidents of gunfire. These four schools are Booker T. Washington Public Charter School at 14th Street and Florida Avenue NW; E.L. Haynes PCS on Georgia Avenue NW; E.L. Haynes PCS on Kansas Avenue NW; and Meridian PCS near the U Street Metro station.
The study considered the school day anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Twenty-five schools were within 1,000 feet of gunfire from 8 to 9 a.m.—when children typically go to school—and from 3 to 4 p.m.—when children typically leave to go home. The study did not include gunfire that occurred during schools hours on weekend, holidays, half-days, or other times schools were closed.
“Gunfire is incredibly loud,” Sam Bieler, one of the study's co-authors, wrote. “I know there are some concerns that a single gunshot may sound like a firecracker or a backfiring car, but when you’re talking about multiple-round incidents—5, 10, 15, 20 rounds—that’s unmistakable…that sounds like gunfire.”
Bieler and Nancy La Vigne, the study's other author, said the data does not mean these schools are dangerous.
“It’s very easy with that simple narrative to lay the problems at the feet of those communities, which is completely and utterly unfair,” Bieler said. “Crime and gun violence exist within a huge network of economic and social pressures. We’d have to study the whole picture before responsibly saying what the causes are and how we can more effectively remedy these harms.”
Next, Bieler and La Vigne hope to explore how students perceive gunfire and if their data can be used to more effectively deploy school resources and direct law enforcement.
Look at the Urban Institute's interactive map to see where these gunfire incidents occurred.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery