COLUMBIA — Crime has been much discussed in Columbia this year — and especially this summer — but calls from the public about "shots fired" in the city are down so far this year compared to last.
Through Aug. 12, Public Safety Joint Communications had received 248 calls to 911 or its nonemergency line about shots fired. Last year, a total of 486 calls were received, an average of about 40 calls per month. That would put last year's January through mid-August total at 300.
A shots fired call is when someone calls 911 or Joint Communications' nonemergency number to say they heard a gunshot.
Police then verify if a gun was fired. If they determine that a gun was fired into a house, at a car or into the air, a shots fired report is filed.
A shooting is an incident in which a person is struck by gunshot.
With fireworks at No. 1 on the list of sounds the public mistakes for a gunshot, July is usually the month with the greatest number of "shots fired" calls. A car backfiring can also sound like a shot being fired, said Columbia Police Capt. Jill Schlude.
Columbia police try to confirm an actual gunshot was fired by finding witnesses, bullet holes or a shell case, Schlude said. When evidence of some kind can be gathered, police will take a report. So far this year, that happened 37 times.
"(This year) in the 37 instances, we can verify that something was shot," Schlude said.
In those 37 cases, eight arrests were made.
The most recent shots fired report and arrest occurred on Aug. 21 at Douglass Park, according to a Missourian article.
Shots fired calls come from many locations in Columbia. Schlude said the calls are "not necessarily evenly distributed." (Editor's note: The Missourian is doing an in-depth analysis of shots fired calls in Columbia.)
2012 was the worst year in the past five for reports of shots fired in Columbia. On Feb. 20, 2012, Police Chief Ken Burton called a news conference to address a rash of shots fired — 11 verified shots fired in 27 days. Investigators determined that at least seven of the verified reports were related and possibly gang-related.
At the time, Burton said the rash of shots fired was the worst in Columbia since the 1990s. He also expressed frustration about the lack of cooperative witnesses, urging people to "share information, tell what they know and be willing to go to court."
Schlude said any little bit of information can help. "Sometimes we get folks that wait to call, and then the (person who fired the weapon) is long gone," she said. "Don't be afraid to call. Go with your gut."
Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.