Saturday, August 11, 2007

Horribly scary and incredibly sad

As I've noted before, one of the BEST things any news organization is doing on the Web is the L.A. Times Homicide Report blog, which can be found here:

I don't want to use this blog as a Google News type aggregator (copier) of other people's work, but in this case, I'd be doing a disservice to ace reporter Jill Leovy and the amazing people putting this together to try and paraphrase their words. So here's an update from her on the stage of the blog and also a refresher on the how and why. Btw, if you scroll down to the next entry you'll see a list of the week's homicide victims, more than 30 and about 20 percent are teenagers. And virtually all of the week's homicides are gun shot victims. And how the fuck do readily available guns make our society safer? make us safer?

New Homicide Map and Picture Gallery

Newmap_picThe Homicide Report has added a new feature to this page: The interactive map and picture gallery. Click on the link below "Our Blogger" at right to view.

The map shows all Los Angeles County homicides from the most recent week; scroll back to see previous homicides. Click on a tab above the map to see photos of some of the victims.

There is a search button in the lower left corner that you can use to call up lists of homicides by name, place and date or date range. You can also use the filter to search by other criteria, including age, race and cause of death.

(The Times is grateful to USC professor Michael Quick for an earlier version of the map he created that was used in making the new map. More on this later).

The new map aggregates the information the Homicide Report has gathered in striving to chronicle each homicide in Los Angeles County since the beginning of this year. The tally so far is 496 homicides between Jan. 1, 2007 and July 30, 2007.

The total is based on records from the Coroner, as well as reporting and analysis by the Homicide Report, not on the Coroner's official count.

Picture_gallery Our list excludes, for example, a substantial number of homicide cases for which the coroner has not yet issued a final determination. Also missing are murky cases, including those in which an ongoing police investigation is likely to reclassify the death as something other than homicide.

The Homicide Report also believes some homicides have slipped through the cracks, and is slowly adding missing cases as they are verified.

This map, and this webpage, the Homicide Report, are a first for the Los Angeles Times. In past years, when the operation was focused largely on the print edition, there was simply not enough room to fit stories about the hundreds of homicides that occur in Los Angeles County each year. With an expanded web presence opening unlimited space, the Homicide Report was created to provide a public record of these deaths, and give readers insight into the nation's homicide problem as it plays out in Los Angeles County.

But the practical problems involved in tracking cases across numerous agencies in a county the size of Los Angeles are considerable.

Many, many homicides are never reported by any media, and are not even caught by internal reporting systems within police agencies designed to inform the press and public. In some jurisdictions, there is little tradition or infrastructure to ensure homicide information is made public at all. The degree to which homicide has become essentially a private event in some cases far surpassed this reporter's expectations. It is its own dismal lesson about the invisibility of homicide victims.

When first approached by the Times, for example, Inglewood Police Department officials balked at releasing such basic facts as the names of all homicide victims. They were not so much obstructionist s surprised: No one had asked them for that before, they said.

Vanderbrug_photoSimilarly, the coroner's office has toiled to provide HR a weekly report, despite the face it is not an official document or required to meet their standards. The Coroner's staff produces the report because HR asked them to. Their listing is, like the Homicide Report itself, a bit of experiment.

All that said, the map at right gives readers a sense of where and when homicides happen, and of who dies.

The following are a sample of the information available from the interactive map:

  • Despite a decline in L.A. County's homicide rate, victims remain overwhelmingly black and Latino.
  • The homicide rate is not constant. It tends to rise on weekends and in the summertime. In the months of May-July, for example, there were 20% more homicides than in January-March.
  • Shootings account for more than four-fifths of the homicides.
  • Less than 5% of the homicides are domestic homicides, and although most victims are women, 4 of this year's 24 domestic violence victims so far have been men.

(Photo by Brian Vander Brug)

Peace to everyone.

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