*Warning: This is a very long blog post.
The gang map caused a 300 percent increase in shootings in the week after it was published.
Or so says Mayor Mike Bell. He pushed that message Sunday morning on Bridges (note, part two deals with the shootings).
“When that map went out that they created, the shootings in the city of Toledo for the next week went up 300 percent. It was a public safety issue that we were attempting to protect, OK?” the mayor said.
I guess I was a little bit more than a little bit skeptical when Jen Sorgenfrei, city spokesman, told me that same thing one afternoon a couple weeks ago.
When I talked to her again today, she stood her ground, and said the only outliers in shootings from April 28 to May 4, when comparing 2012 to 2013, was the publication of map.
That was, she said, taking into account things like the weather.
So, now that the mayor has publicly made this claim, I thought, well, OK, if they're still trying to push this, let's look at the shootings in Toledo in the time frame they used. (Not like the mayor was running out to join my fan club or anything; he already called the gang series "irresponsible.")
In this case, they're looking at all shooting reports tracked by police – could be anything from a homicide to shots fired call.
In the time frame we are looking at for shootings in the city of Toledo, police reported 12 shootings (compared to four in that week the year prior):
Shots fired into 552 Knower St., April 28, time unknown
Shots fired into 1144 Belmont Ave., April 28, 11 a.m.
Nathaniel Phillips, 21, shot and killed April 29, 12:04 a.m.
Michael Kohlhofer, Jr., 19, shot April 29, 12:04 a.m.
Shots fired into 742 Woodstock Ave., April 29, 1:05 a.m.
Yealaysia Williams, 1, shot May 1, 7:55 p.m.
Kaiejah Williams, 2, shot May 1, 7:55 p.m.
Kevin Lusby, 35, shot May 2, 3 p.m.
Shots fired into 3201 N. Detroit Ave., 1:30 a.m.
Vincent Pittman, 38, shot May 3, 3:46 a.m.
P. Higgs, age unknown, shot May 3, time unknown
Sonya Quintanilla, 36, shot May 3, 11:45 p.m.
Obviously it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that, yeah, there were more shootings this year, from April 28 to May 4, than last. But the mayor has provided us the motive, which means we have to look at more than just the numbers.
"Because what happens, the gang members look at it and say, 'That's not quite right, that's my territory,' and they start going out and reclaiming territories. OK, which, if you have nothing out there then they don't do that, which keeps the neighborhoods safe and keeps the people safe," the mayor said.
Gosh, where do I start?
The mayor's statement assumes a few things:
gang members had no idea who claimed what territory;
every single gang member we interviewed lied to us and that our map is mostly wrong (I've been told by numerous law enforcement sources, community leaders, and gang sources that the map is pretty spot on.
Although, we missed one (that I know of). The Popoffs (Pop Offs? Pop-offs? If anyone from the gang is reading, could you please provide the proper spelling of your gang faction? Thanks.), who, I'm told, claim territory near Bowsher High School. We had them on our list of gangs to map, but nobody had ever heard of them, so had nowhere to put them.);
Every shooting that happened in Toledo during our already-defined time period was a dispute over gang territory and directly linked to the gang map.
Because I have obnoxious and sometimes overwhelming record-hoarding tendencies, I went through my files and pulled every record I have on each of these shootings, which could include a police report, an incident report, and, if charges have been filed, affidavits from Toledo Municipal Court. I read each document (again) looking for motives or clues to a motive. For some of these incidents, I don't have any report that I can find, so ...
1) 554 Knower St., I do not have a report for this incident, and I went back to the police blotter that lists this incident, and it doesn't say what time this occurred. Time, I think, is significant here because the map wouldn't have made it to the Internet before midnight, obviously, and wouldn't have been available in stores for a couple hours after that. And, without a report, I have no idea if anyone was home when the shots were fired. Someone could have come home on April 28, saw a shot-out window, and called police. The shooting, in theory, could have happened earlier than the 28th.
2) 11244 Belmont Ave., I do not have a report on this incident.
3/4) Nathaniel Phillips and Michael Kohlhofer, Jr., were together when they were shot.
Coincidentally, Friday I was at a certification hearing for one of the teens suspected in the case, and, although I had already been told by police what the motive was, the certification hearing reinforced what I'd known.
This shooting, at 1559 Twin Oaks, was a robbery – at the very least for cash, possibly also for drugs. Police confirmed that Phillips posted numerous times on Twitter showing he had what appeared to be substantial amounts of cash and at least some marijuana. I asked if that was the motive for the shooting, police said yes.
During the certification hearing Friday, Kohlofer testified that the suspects were in the house screaming, “Where's the money?” over and over again.
Gang-map related? My opinion is no.
5) 742 Woodstock Ave., I do not have a report on this incident.
6/7) Yealaysia and Kaiejah Williams, who are not related, were also together when they were shot. The toddlers were outside when someone started shooting at the Greenbelt Place Apartments.
No one will say one way or another what the motive of this shooting was. I interviewed lots of people at the Greenbelt, and nobody seemed to have a really clear picture of what went down. The only thing anybody seemed to agree on was that the little girls were not the target.
Could this be a gang-related shooting? Absolutely. The Greenbelt Place Apartments are kind of a home base for the Cherry Woodz, a Crips gang. I don't think anybody would refute that – they're infamous and a widely recognized Toledo gang.
And because they're so well-known around the city, at least among anyone with any working knowledge of gangs, it, to me, doesn't make sense for this to be a map-related shooting. I can't imagine someone going to the Cherry Woodz and being all, “This isn't Cherry Woodz territory!”
But, in fairness, could this be map-related? Sure. I mean, nobody has been charged, so that makes it a little more difficult to say what was the motive.
8) Kevin Lusby, told police he had just turned left onto Arcadia, from North Detroit, and heard a single gunshot. The rear window of his car shattered, and he heard two more gunshots and realized he was shot.
No charges have been filed in this shooting, and when I called Lusby this morning, he wasn't home. Neither the police report nor the incident report give any clues as to the motive.
So, could it be gang-map related? Not out of the question, I suppose.
9) 3201 N. Detroit, So, this one is interesting because it's the same address listed on the Lusby report. According to an incident report, two people inside the house told police that at least one person shot into the house while the victims were in the living room. One round, which was recovered, hit a wall. No possible motive listed. No charges filed. *Note, I don't know of any direct relationship between Lusby and this house on North Detroit; it was simply given, it appears, as the physical location for where Lusby's car was when he was shot.
10) Vincent Pittman was shot, according to a Toledo police news release about charges in the shooting, after Pittman escorted the suspect out of an illegal after-hours club. The suspect, Anthony Smith, 27, of 2221 Auburn Ave., allegedly went to his car, came back, and shot Pittman in the chest.
Smith was reportedly escorted from the club because he allegedly assaulted a woman, according to a police report. The news release just says there was an altercation inside the club, 2345 Peele.
Gang-map related? Unlikely. (Although, Smith does have a GGC – Geer Gang Crips – tattoo under one of his eyes.)
11) P. Higgs, according to a report, the victim told police was shot in a leg when someone trying to sell him a gun dropped the weapon, causing it to discharge. I don't have a report on this either, just information from the blotter, which is why my information on this is so scarce.
12) Sonya Quintanilla told police she was shot after her sons were at a bowling alley and got into an argument with a teenager. Police were called to the bowling alley that day for a weapons call, related to the argument. What was the argument about? Neither the report nor incident report says.
So, I tried to call Quintanilla this morning, but ended up having to leave a message.
There's no indication that any charges have been filed.
Were the boys fighting about the gang map? Could have been, but, again, I have nothing that says one way or another.
So, going back to this Bridges interview, the host, Doni Miller, asked the mayor if the map was still a public-safety issue.
“That was my point. We are not trying to hold information that we think is valid to the citizens,” the mayor said. “I have no reason to do that. I'm a public safety person. I was a fire chief for 17 years. I think I have a pretty good understanding of what we need to do to protect the public. This was information we knew that would cause some issues.”
So, when does the map stop being an issue? Or an excuse? Or the apparent motive? Should we say that every shooting in the future history of shootings in Toledo is because of the gang map? Where do we draw the line?
Let's talk about this year-over-year week-to-week thing that the mayor has decided to use. I compare year-to-year, and sometimes month-to-month all the time. I feel like that's pretty legitimate. The sample size is a bit larger, and, my thinking is, more indicative of what is actually happening.
One week compared to one other week? That's a pretty small sample, but, if that's how they want to play, let's try that.
Today, I went through my shooting spreadsheets, which only track injured persons, and noted every shooting that happened on every day, then added up the number of shootings happening on a weekly basis.
It's not uncommon, based on what I'm looking at, for there to be big increases and big decreases in shootings, week over week.
Let's look at a few examples in 2011.
June 5-11: 7 people shot
June 12-18: 1 person shot
June 19-25: 7 people shot
June 26-July 2: 5 people shot
Each of those is a Sunday to Saturday sample set.
So I went through our electronic database to see if we did any stories about gangs in June, 2011. No stories about a specific gang, but "gang" was in several stories. A couple times about various shootings (like 'no evidence of gang ties', 'gang sweep nets 27 arrests', gang members on trial). Nothing that could suggest that The Blade caused any uptick in shootings.
If we want to look at a specific week for year-to-year increases, since that's what the city did, we can do that too. Using Sunday to Saturday weeks ...
August, 2011 vs August, 2012:
(2011) July 31-Aug. 6: 2 people shot
(2012) July 29-Aug. 4: 9 people shot
(2011) Aug. 7-13: 5 people shot
(2012) Aug. 5-11: 5 people shot
(2011) Aug. 14-20: 3 people shot
(2012) Aug. 12-18: 1 person shot
(2011) Aug. 21-27: 8 people shot
(2012) Aug. 19-25: 2 people shot
(2011) Aug. 28-Sept.3: 9 people shot
(2012) Aug. 26-Sept. 1: 4 people shot
Whether the number of shootings went up or down, it's pretty clear that it's not unusual for shootings to fluctuate.
But, if this theory about comparing week-over-week from year-to-year should be believed, then coming up here we should get ready for another showdown.
Last year, in less than 24 hours spanning June 19 and June 20, Toledo felt like it had gone to hell.
Nine people shot, two fatally. And I'm just looking at shootings with injuries.
The year prior, so 2011, there was one shooting with injury in that same June 19-20 time frame.
And, OK, just for good measure, let's pick out the weekend from 2011 that really got people wigged out.
On June 25 and June 26, 2011, eight people were shot.
Then police Chief Mike Navarre launched a gun task force.
So, if this week-to-week comparisons theory should stand, then the same time period in 2012 should have been bananas, right?
Looking at 2012, and again, this is just injury shootings, there were zero people shot.
Now, let's be fair here.
Two years ago was bad. I mean, shootings ended up 70 percent higher than 2010, and shootings were down slightly last year. So, there's that to consider.
And, since the 2011 numbers was a weekend, the last weekend in June to be exact, let's look at the last weekend in June, 2012, which would have been the 29th and 30th.
Still just one shooting. And, if you want to get technical about it, the 2011 dates were Saturday and Sunday, so looking only at the Saturday and Sunday from the June, 2012, there were zero.
This assertion that the gang map, or anything published in the newspaper for that matter, is somehow directly related to the number of people who get shot is laughable, kind of offensive, and concerning. It's a bold statement based on fallacy.
That's like blaming the full moon for more crime. Anti-science, as my friend and colleague Nolan Rosenkrans put it.
My biggest beef with the mayor's claim is that it only looks at numbers. At no point has anybody said to me, "We consulted with police and this officer, this officer, this sergeant, and this lieutenant, who are all actively working their informant sources, all said all of these shootings were because of the map."
Nobody has said that to me and, if they did, I wouldn't believe it anyway. (See above individual shooting write-ups.)
Anyone who bothers to read this entire post is free to think what they will. Maybe you agree with the mayor, maybe you agree with me, or maybe you think we're both idiots and wish we'd both just shut up already. Whatever.
For those who did bother to read this entire post, I'd like to know what your thoughts are. Do you think that the mayor's statement that the gang map caused a massive uptick in shootings is valid? Why or why not?