Not yet three-quarters of the way through the year, the city of Duluth has seen more acts of gun violence in 2020 than it did in all of 2015 and 2016 combined, according to data reviewed by the News Tribune this week.
Records from the Duluth Police Department point to fluctuating — but generally escalating — reports of gun violence in recent years. With three-plus months left in the year, the city has seen twice as many incidents in 2020 as it did just a half-decade ago, according to the data obtained through a public records request.
In 2014, the city saw 14 shootings or confirmed shots-fired incidents in which officers were able to recover evidence at the scene. That remained steady in 2015 before dropping to just 11 in 2016 — a year that included one gun homicide and two self-inflicted gunshot reports.
But the city has experienced escalating numbers since 2017, with the exception of a small dip in 2018.
Last year, police recorded 26 total gunfire incidents — two of them self-inflicted and one resulting in a homicide — which has already been eclipsed by this year's 28 as of Sunday. There have not been any deaths or self-inflicted gunshot wounds reported this year, according to police.
The records were requested by the News Tribune in response to a recent spate of gun violence in the city, and it underscores the concerns raised by Police Chief Mike Tusken and Mayor Emily Larson at a news conference earlier this month.
"We come from a country that has 330-340 million people, and we've got over 400 million guns," Tusken said. "At any given time, there are thousands of them that have been stolen and are in the hands of people who shouldn't have them, who are convicted felons, who have been violent felons, and who are remorseless in how they operate, in that they will use guns to resolve conflict."
The second half of 2020 has been particularly violent, with five gunfire reports in July, eight in August and another five so far this month.
Police have suggested that there is frequently a lack of cooperation among victims or potential witnesses to the incidents, at least some of which appear to be in retaliation for prior acts of violence.
A silver lining is that no one has been killed by gunfire in the city this year, and there is a much lower rate of injury than in past years — though there are also comparatively fewer arrests.
From of the 28 incidents this year, there have been six reported injuries and 10 arrests. Last year, there were 14 injuries and 22 arrests connected to the 26 reports. In 2015, when there were just 14 incidents, police were reporting seven injuries and 15 arrests.
Police have said that none of the shootings or substantiated gunfire reports in 2020 appear to be random — but rather "targeted" acts of violence that nonetheless affect neighborhoods, particularly the Hillside, downtown and Lincoln Park areas.
"Any time we see gunshots ring out in our neighborhoods, that is cause for concern," Tusken said this month. "Without question, it shakes us to our core. We expect that we will have a neighborhood where we are safe, where our kids are safe."
News Tribune staff writer Adelle Whitefoot contributed to this report.