Getting Away With Gun Violence


J. Patrick Coolican, Columnist, Las Vegas Sun

Eugene O'Donnell, Professor of Law and Police Studies, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Sara Burns, community member

BY MARIE ANDRUSEWICZ -- The Las Vegas Metro Police Department tracks down and arrests perpetrators of homicide above the national average: More than 75 percent of investigations end in an arrest, compared to 65 percent nationally.

But, according to data recently mined by Las Vegas Sun columnist J. Patrick Coolican, they have an extremely low success rate when it comes to assault crimes in which the victim isn’t killed. More than 90 percent of these perpetrators are likely to get away with the crime.

Coolican says he became curious about these stats while working on a story about a homeless man who had been stabbed. He expected that this type of random crime would be difficult to solve, so he asked Metro for data.

“Police departments often don’t have a category for crimes like this,” says Coolican. “So they had to go in and scrape the data and extract it ... the results are surprising and I think a little disturbing.”

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The data reveals that in the last three years, there were more than 900 unsolved nonlethal shootings and close to 2000 unsolved nonlethal assaults with all other weapons. “That’s a lot of victims there,” says Coolican.

These cases are really just homicides that failed, says Eugene O’Donnell, lawyer. “In the assault cases it should be concerning to people, particularly in the firearms cases. It’s often a combination of people being bad shots and getting good medical care that keeps people alive.”

O’Donnell says the irony is that we’ve never had better resources for investigating and prosecuting crime.

“This should be a golden age of criminal investigation,” he says. “With better data bases, closed circuit television, DNA. You would think that these numbers would be better.”

Coolican says that when he asked Metro for the reasons for the low success rate, they pointed to a lack of resources.

“There is a tremendous amount of work to be done, not only in Las Vegas, but throughout the country. One thing we need to be doing is I think the FBI needs to create a new category (for these crimes), particularly for shootings,” says O’Donnell.

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