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Q&A with The Buffalo News about shootings in Buffalo

In 2016 alone, the number of shootings in Buffalo have increased 23 percent compared to the five-year average from 2011 to 2015. The Buffalo News' Aaron Besecker, Lexie Heinle and Dan Kirchberger analyzed more than six years of shootings data from the Buffalo Police Department and published the results last week.

Among their findings: the entire East Side accounts for about three-quarters of all shootings in Buffalo over the last six years but only houses a third of the city's population.

Mayor Byron Brown responded to their findings earlier this week.

Mayor blames Buffalo's shootings on 'revolving door' of criminals with guns

Besecker, Heinle and Kirchberger took some time to answer some questions from readers:

Q: What qualified as a shooting?

B: We previously got a question about what qualified as a shooting in our data. Here's the definition we used: A shooting is defined as an incident in which a person fires a gun and a person, building or vehicle is hit, or there is otherwise evidence of gunfire. Suicides are not included in the data. To clarify a point for some who asked about the shooting totals. A total of 1,286 people were shot in entire city from 2011 through 2016. In the neighborhood of roughly 700 people we profiled in the story, there were 47 people shot in 80 incidents over that time period.

Q: Why didn't you include data from Niagara Falls?

Besecker: We had a couple people ask why we didn't publish any data about shootings in Niagara Falls. Well, we sought data from Buffalo Police about shootings in this city. That was a little bit of an effort, not to mention the data cleanup and analysis. So we don't have any data from the Falls, but we'd love to get some in the future!

Q: A behind-the-scenes question: How much effort did it take to track down all this data? How much was compiled by hand and how much was supplied? How big of a task was it to be confident in the data published?

B: Thanks for the question! We had been gathering everything by hand since the start of 2016 until late last year when the Buffalo Police Department sent over a spreadsheet with about six years of data. Of those, we vetted more than 150 reports by hand in order to spot check the data.

Q: How many deaths were drug or gang related?

B: Thanks for the question, Jay. There were more than 200 deaths from shootings in our data. The data from the police did not specify the nature of the circumstances involved in the shooting, unfortunately. Generally speaking, Buffalo Police officials say areas where gang activity is concentrated generally see more shootings.

If you have any more questions about the reporting or data involved, email abesecker@buffnews.com, lheinle@buffnews.com and dkirchberger@buffnews.com.

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