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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Residents' reports of gunshots in Ogden rose 45 percent over the last year, but more than half of all gunshot reports were later dismissed as unfounded.
Residents typically report everything from fireworks to backfiring cars and other loud bangs as gunfire. "Any loud noise of a kind, they'll think it's a shot fired," Police Chief Jon Greiner said.
Police investigate the calls, but often can't be sure what's been heard because no direct evidence, like bullet casings or holes, can be found.
Police dispatchers recorded 490 reports of gunfire between Octobert 2006 and October 2007. That's up from 337 during the same 12-month period the year before.
Fifty-two percent of the 490 calls -- or 257 -- have been dismissed as unfounded, meaning police found no evidence that a weapon was discharged.
Officers wrote reports for 233 calls, but even those aren't proof that evidence of a shooting was found, Greiner said.
Greiner points to data from September as an example of an "average" month. Of 70 "shots fired" reports, only nine were substantiated by evidence.
But the actual number of calls could be higher. Ogden dispatchers can classify calls involving persons injured by gunfire as an assault, meaning some calls are being left out of the shots-fired tally. That happened at least once in September, when a 22-year-old man was shot and killed.
Based on the numbers alone, Ogden's data indicate the city has a higher rate of gunfire reports than cities with much larger populations. In Salt Lake City, for example, where the population is more than double Ogden's 80,000 residents, just 799 shooting reports were made to dispatchers between October 2006 and this year. "I don't know that that means anything," Greiner said. "There's no way to really compare because we don't know what their criteria is."
Salt Lake's data include instances when someone was hurt or killed, according to police Detective Jeff Bedard, who agrees it can be difficult to make accurate comparisons between agencies because reporting protocols differ.
Weber State University professor Scott Senjo, however, said comparisons between police agencies can be helpful in guiding police and policy makers. "Comparisons are useful and often effective because a lot, but not all, a lot of criminal justice policy is the same from one department to the next."
Information from: Standard-Examiner
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)