Top U.S. Cities Whose Murder Rates Increased The Most In 2015, With Little Explanation As To Why
There has been a dramatic increase in murders in cities around the country this year compared to a historically nonviolent 2014, according to a new study by The New York Times. The top 10 U.S. cities whose murder rates have most risen sadly offer little in terms of insight as to how to curb such violence. No one can say for sure what it is that's caused this uptick in homicides across many major U.S. cities, though the numbers may appear more dramatic thanks to abnormally low murder numbers in cities like Dallas, Kansas City, and New York last year.
Some experts point to a cultural shift in which whole communities find violence so commonplace that, even in the most casual of arguments and conversations, they'll use lethal force rather than talking something out. Others point to the current national attitude towards law enforcement following rampant, high profile cases of police brutality. Dubbed the "Ferguson effect," the way the country regards cops has reportedly forced them to utilize less physical force, allowing for more potentially violent offenders opportunities to commit murder. Likewise, gun availability may be another contributing factor.
Though troubling to see an increase in violence, according to The New York Times, the current numbers are nothing compared to the abnormally high cases in the 1980s and 1990s. And many major metropolitans like Los Angeles and Cincinnati have reported no changes in their murder rate from last year. Still, it's tough seeing this list of cities where murders are on the rise.
According to recent data from The New York Times, Milwaukee has seen the sharpest increase in murder rates from 2014 to this year — 76 percent. The Wisconsin metro went from an impressively low 59 murders to 136 murders over the same August to August period. Police Chief Edward A. Flynn tells the newspaper that the uptick in murders may have to do with a cultural shift accepting of using guns and violent means to settle disputes.
Maintaining one's status and credibility and honor, if you will, within that peer community is literally a matter of life and death. And that’s coupled with a very harsh reality, which is the mental calculation of those who live in that strata that it is more dangerous to get caught without their gun than to get caught with their gun.
2. St. Louis
St. Louis saw a 60 percent increase in murders from last year, when there were 85 murders reported compared to 136. Many cite the St. Louis metro as a potential reason for the uptick in murders around the country following the shooting death of Michael Brown last year. An alleged "Ferguson effect" has reportedly made law enforcement wary of exercising force and the theory goes that this has enabled more fatal shootings to occur. But University of Missouri-St. Louis Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld tells The New York Times that this is hardly the case, as murders had been on the rise prior to Brown being shot.
Of the 10 cities whose murder rates had risen the most, Baltimore ranked in the top two for overall number murders. Last year, the Maryland city recorded 138 murders. This year, it's seen 215 — up a full 56 percent. High-profile incidents like the case of Freddie Gray, who sustained fatal injuries while in police custody, have made such violence seemingly inescapable. According to USA Today, the rise in murders is akin to Baltimore at its most violent in the 1990s.
4. Washington, D.C.
Washington has seen a 44 percent increase in murders compared to last year's number of 73. This year, that number is up to 105 — past the city's overall 2014 murder total, according to The International Business Times. The way the city is looking to combat such a high murder rate is by placing more officers on the ground, moving many away from administrative activities and into such at-risk neighborhoods as Ward 8, which is one of the most impoverished, violent sections of the city. Ward 8 murders account for 95 percent of all murders in the city.
5. New Orleans
Following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans struggled to get a handle on a soaring murder rate that once netted the city the somber designation as one of the most dangerous cities in America. Numbers appeared to have finally leveled off and even decreased by 2011. 2015 marks the first time in three years that number has increased, however. Last year around this time, the city had logged 98 murders compared to this year's 120. Like Milwaukee, New Orleans Police Chief Michael S. Harrison similarly cites a cultural issue as to why the murder rate in the city has increased. Harrison told The New York Times:
That is not a situation that can be solved by policing. It speaks to a culture of violence deeply ingrained into a community — a segment of the population where people are resolving their problems in a violent way.
No other city has had such a high amount of murders regardless of increase in frequency as Chicago. The Windy City logged 244 last year and a full 294 this year, marking a 20 percent increase in murders overall. The city is at somewhat a loss to control the rampant violent crime that has clearly gotten out of hand in one of America's largest cities. Following a particularly lethal Independence Day weekend, Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy had this to say to reporters when pressed for answers:
If you think that putting more cops on the street would make a difference, then take a look at the fact that we put a third more manpower on the street for this weekend. What's the result? We're getting more guns. Well, that's great. It's not stopping the violence.
7. Kansas City, Missouri
Though Kansas City's murder rate has increased by 20 percent from 45 murders last year around this time to 54 today, law enforcement state that the increase appears more drastic than it actually is. According to a report from local ABC affiliate KMBC, prior to 2014, Kansas City hasn't seen such low murder numbers in decades. "If you compare it to any other previous year, we're way low. We’re well underneath those numbers," Police Captain Tye Grant tells the station. More commonly within the past decade, there has been an average of around 100 murders a year in the city.
Similarly, Dallas also saw a particularly nonviolent 2014, making their 17 percent increase in murders appear a bit more dramatic than it may actually be. Last year, Dallas saw 71 murders at this time while this year there have been 83 reported. According to The Dallas Morning News, numbers may start slowing rather than increasing, as there was a decrease in violent crime in July.
9. New York
New York's 9 percent increase in murders puts the city at 208 compared to last year's 190. NYPD spokesperson Stephen Davis tells The New York Times that many of the murders are gang-related, though the root of many go unexplained. New York also joins Dallas and Kansas City with a particularly nonviolent 2014, making this year's increase in crime appear particularly bleak, however.
The City of Brotherly Love has seen an increase of 4 percent, with murders last year at this time totaling 165 compared to 171 today. As with Chicago, officials in Philadelphia believe that gang violence has heavily contributed to the murder stats. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey tells ABC affiliate WPVI that the city has "had a little uptick in some gang activity, particularly in South Philadelphia with some shootings and so forth."