Cities that have been saddled with high murder rates in the past are still witnessing a spike in those numbers this year while compared to 2014. Law enforcement officials have pointed to a variety of factors in the rising rates, yet a full determination of the cause has yet to be reached.
The New York Times examines what those dwelling within the cities have had to endure this summer.
More than 30 other cities have also reported increases in violence from a year ago. In New Orleans, 120 people had been killed by late August, compared with 98 during the same period a year earlier. In Baltimore, homicides had hit 215, up from 138 at the same point in 2014. In Washington, the toll was 105, compared with 73 people a year ago. And in St. Louis, 136 people had been killed this year, a 60 percent rise from the 85 murders the city had by the same time last year.
Law enforcement experts say disparate factors are at play in different cities, though no one is claiming to know for sure why murder rates are climbing. Some officials say intense national scrutiny of the use of force by the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals, though many experts dispute that theory.
Rivalries among organized street gangs, often over drug turf, and the availability of guns are cited as major factors in some cities, including Chicago. But more commonly, many top police officials say they are seeing a growing willingness among disenchanted young men in poor neighborhoods to use violence to settle ordinary disputes.
Among the disturbing tales related to the piece: a Milwaukee mother of five laid to rest two adult children in the span of eight months in unrelated shooting incidents. That city has shown the sharpest increase in murders, with St. Louis and Baltimore placing second and third, respectively. In terms of sheer numbers, Chicago’s 312 murders places them at the top of the list, with Baltimore trailing with 222 homicides.