‘Gun violence wasn’t slowing down’: Davenport looks at community-based strategy to tackle gun crime

TV6 Investigates looked into gunfire trends in the city since 2017
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 1:41 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Davenport police are shifting how the department responds to gun crime, using a community-based strategy called Group Violence Intervention.

The department hopes the approach will stop cycles of violence from frequent offenders and lower gun crime rates in the city.

“It’s an evidence-based strategy that’s meant to reduce gun violence by focusing on those that are at highest risk for violent victimization or offending and bringing to them a credible message that we want to see them safe alive and out of prison, that violence is not going to be tolerated in our community,” Sarah Ott, Davenport’s chief strategy officer, said.

“We are here to help them, but that if the violence continues, there will be consequences. Ultimately, GVI is law enforcement and our communities standing and acting together to lower gun crime in our community.”

How did the city get here? TV6 Investigates looked back on trends of gun violence in Davenport as part one of a two-part series on Group Violence Intervention.

By the numbers

There were 172 confirmed gunfire incidents in Davenport in 2017, 206 in 2018 and 194 in 2019, according to data obtained by TV6 Investigates.

In 2020, the city saw a record high of 282 confirmed gunfire incidents.

“In the last several years we’ve had a significant increase in gun violence,” Maj. Jeffery Bladel, assistant chief of the Davenport Police Department, said. “The amount of work I would say that our officers are doing is just a tremendous amount of work - but it didn’t seem like we were making any headway.”

By the end of 2021, Davenport saw a decrease in confirmed gunfire incidents at 207 according to the data.

As of Aug. 1, there were 110 confirmed gunfire incidents. Of those, 24 incidents included injuries Two people have died from gunfire in Davenport this year, according to data obtained by TV6.

“The gun violence wasn’t slowing down. So, you get to a point where we’re continuously responding or we’re chasing the cycle of violence,” Bladel said.

No ‘bad neighborhoods’

Data shows the majority of gunfire incidents so far this year happened south of Central Park Avenue and west of Bridge Avenue.

“You have to understand there are people in those neighborhoods that want to be safe,” Bladel said. “It’s not the neighborhood that’s causing the issues, it’s individuals, violent individuals that are bringing those activities to those neighborhoods.”

He said it’s not that Davenport has bad neighborhoods. Rather, it has a small number of violent and frequent offenders.

“They’re living in the neighborhoods that are getting shots fired every day. We get to go home after eight hours, but they’re living in it,” Bladel said.

View Davenport Confirmed Gunfire 2022 in a full screen map

Gun violence transcends borders. Data shows the same offenders in Davenport cause gun crime in Rock Island and Moline.


To combat cycles of violence, Davenport police purchased an Integrated Ballistic Identification System, or NIBIN, in 2019. The NIBIN system creates a 3D image of shell casings test-fired from seized guns. The image is then entered into the NIBIN network to see if it matches shell casings recovered at other crime scenes.

“It allows us to connect shell casings to guns, guns to shell casings. So, when we have shooting incidents we are able to formulate a spiderweb that gives us a bigger picture of where these guns are being used,” Bladel said.

Davenport police said a lot of the city’s gun violence is retaliatory and stuck in a cycle of rapid gunfire.

“We have the ability to stop those retaliatory cycles a lot quicker than we used to having NIBIN in-house,” Bladel said. “Now, we’re able to analyze and get and get leads or hits back from our forensic analysis of shell casings as soon as a 24-hour time period.”

Police said even with the best technology, crime analysis, and a designated gun crime unit, they can’t fight the problem alone.

“As your police, we are absolutely committed to our community. We’re committed to looking at different avenues and how we can police but we need your support,” Bladel said.