September 2016 – SOCIETY – Murder rates rose significantly in 25 of the nation’s 100 largest cities last year, according to an analysis by The New York Times of new data compiled from individual police departments. The findings confirm a trend that was tracked recently in a study published by the National Institute of Justice. “The homicide increase in the nation’s large cities was real and nearly unprecedented,” wrote the study’s author, Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who explored homicide data in 56 large American cities. In the Times analysis, half of the increase came from just seven cities — Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville and Washington.
Chicago had the most homicides — 488 in 2015 — far more than the 352 in New York City, which has three times as many people. Baltimore had the largest increase — 133 more than 2014 — and the second-highest rate in 2015, after St. Louis, which had 59 homicides per 100,000 residents. The number of cities where rates rose significantly was the largest since the height of violent crime in the early 1990s.
For the Times analysis, we collected 30 years of homicide data from the F.B.I. through 2014, then gathered 2015 data from local police departments in the 100 cities. (The F.B.I. will not release the full 2015 data until later this month.) Since crime rates fluctuate from year to year, we used a statistical technique to determine places where we can definitely say rates were rising. Nationwide, nearly 6,700 homicides were reported in the 100 largest cities in 2015, about 950 more than the year before. About half of the rise — 480 of the 950 — occurred in seven cities. The poverty rate in these cities is higher than the national average.
At least three of these cities have also been embroiled in protests after police-involved deaths of black males, like Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Laquan McDonald in Chicago and Tamir Rice in Cleveland. In his study, Dr. Rosenfeld said that rising crime might be linked to less aggressive policing that resulted from protests of high-profile police killings of African-Americans. But he said this hypothesis, a version of the so-called Ferguson effect, which has spurred heated debate among lawmakers and criminologists, must be further evaluated. There is no consensus on what caused the recent spike, and each city appears to have unique circumstances contributing to the uptick. –NY Times