In disturbing crime news, murder rates are sharply rising in cities around the country and officials are trying to figure out why. As of the end of August of 2015, more than 30 cities in America have reported drastic increases in violent crimes and homicides compared to the same time period in 2014. There are several reasons being explored, including:
Rivalries between Street Gangs
Some law enforcement officials believe that the rise in murder rates is connected to an increase in violence between rival gangs. Many gangs are heavily involved in distributing and selling illegal drugs, and turf wars are not uncommon. As gangs fight to maintain their drug sales and protect their territories, violence escalates and gang members become victims of homicide.
Violence Growing Among Young Men in Poor Neighborhoods
Another theory for the rise in murder rates is the fact that young men living in poverty have become more likely to turn to violence to settle disputes, especially through the use of guns. Many residents of poor neighborhoods are less likely to graduate from high school, and feel like they don’t have many options to better themselves in life. This can lead to resentment and anger, which can cloud thoughts and cause a person to respond very violently to situations that could be solved without the use of violence or committing a homicide.
Less Policing Due to Controversy
A less popular theory for the rise in murder rates is that police have become less aggressive due to the media attention focusing on police brutality and shootings. Some postulate that this has led to emboldened criminals who are committing murder at higher rates.
Unpredictable Violence between People Who Know Each Other
The increase in murder rates this year is not all because of gang violence and random violent crimes. A growing number of people are being murdered in their homes or cars by people that they know. This points to an increased sense of violence becoming ingrained into our society - friends, family members, and people in romantic relationships are all too often turning to guns to “solve” issues instead of using healthier coping mechanisms.
Increased Tension on Social Media
An alarming trend in crime news is the fact that police are seeing increased murder rates in teens and very young adults that stem from arguments on social media. There have been reports of teens as young as 14 years old being shot and killed by other teens because of anger over things posted or said on social media.
Rising Murder Rates by the Numbers
Of all the cities reporting a drastic rise in murders, Milwaukee has had the biggest increase. Through the end of August of 2014 the city recorded 59 murders, but for the same time period in 2015 there have already been 104 - an increase of 76%. St. Louis is experiencing the same problem as Milwaukee; there were 85 murders in 2014 but this year there has been 136 for an increase of 60%. Baltimore has seen their murder rate rise by 56%, and murder rates in Washington D.C. are up 44%. These numbers are quite alarming, and officials are bracing themselves for record numbers by the time the year is over.
What is being done to address the Issue
Since no one can pinpoint exactly what is causing the drastic increase in murder rates, it can be difficult to solve the problems. But officials in the major cities affected are taking this issue very seriously and working tirelessly to decrease incidents of violence and murder. In August a summit was held for more than 70 officials from the cities affected, and a Justice Department initiative was scheduled to address the rising murder rates in cities across the country.
On a local level, law enforcement is increasing patrols. Community leaders are working with schools and churches to empower and educate those who are most at risk for committing violent crimes. In cities such as Chicago, police are cracking down on gun offenses and working to remove illegal guns from the street. The increase in murder rates can’t be fixed overnight, but officials hope that aggressive measures will help stop the violence.