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Small group accounts for most Niagara Falls gunfire, NU researchers say

About 20 people account for most of the criminal gunfire in Niagara Falls.

That's the conclusion of two Niagara University researchers who analyzed and mapped police incident reports.

Criminal justice professors Timothy Lauger and Craig Rivera noted 650 people were identified in Falls police reports over five years, from 2010 to 2015, as having some association with a gunman.

"As you gaze at the map, the red lines, the shootings, are very much concentrated within a small number of those people," Lauger said. "Within the most known 650 people, maybe 20 people are involved."

The Niagara University professors also interviewed those involved in crimes.

"The perpetrators are generally the victims. There's a big overlap," Lauger said. "When I'm asking people 'Have you ever been shot?' and they've been shot 10 times, these are also people who are heavily involved in shootings themselves, or the people they hang out with have been involved in shootings. It tends to go back and forth between the same small network."

Maps compiled by Matt Robbins of the Niagara Falls Police Department, based on eight months of reports in 2016, showed several hot spots for violence in the city. Lauger said the worst seemed to be around 19th and Niagara streets, about a mile east of Seneca Niagara Casino.

Other areas for notable violence included Highland Avenue in the northern part of the city; Eighth Street and Pine Avenue near downtown; and Pierce Avenue in north-central Niagara Falls.

"A lot of it is based on beefs or disrespect," Rivera said. "Maybe it'll start with disrespect in a bar or some party, and it'll escalate from there. Some will turn into shootings a day or two or three days later, and some won't. The key is finding which fights or disrespect incidents turn into shootings and which don't."

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The professors' analysis of Falls police reports shows that fights often lead to gunfire in the next few days.

"If you've had more than one fight per day in the past week, the odds of a shooting happening on a given day, or a firearm-related call, jump 20 or 25 percent," Rivera said. "Statistically, we've shown that, regardless of the time of the year (or the) day of the week."

"There are people in the Falls who are shooters, they're known as shooters," Lauger said. "Somebody in the research said 'gun-happy.' You do get individuals who are involved in drugs, involved in smaller criminal activity, but even within that population, the probability that one is going to shoot (someone) is pretty small. There are just individuals who shoot."

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