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February 12, 2006

Disconcerting rise in violent crime rates

The front page of the Sunday New York Times had this interesting article detailing a troubling recent rise in violent crime rates in a number of cities.  The piece focused on homicides, and explained that "police say the current rise in homicides has been set off by ... petty disputes that hardly seem the stuff of fistfights, much less gunfire or stabbings."  Here are some more notable excerpts from the article:

Nationally, the homicide rate peaked in 1991, declined steadily after 1993 and has remained essentially flat since 1999.  But in the first six months of 2005, according to preliminary statistics from the F.B.I., the number of homicides nationwide rose 2.1 percent, with the greatest increase, 4.9 percent, in the Midwest....

A large part of the problem, the police say, is simply more guns on the streets as gun laws have loosened around the country.  In Philadelphia, Commissioner Johnson said, since the state made it easier to get a gun permit in 1985, the number of people authorized to carry a gun in the city has risen from 700 to 32,000.

But the police also blame lax sentences and judges who they say let suspects out on bail too easily....  In Nashville, Chief Ronal W. Serpas recalled an 18-year-old who had been arrested 41 times but was out on bail when he killed a bystander in a fight over a dice game.  "We have people who've done two, three, four, five shootings who are back on the streets," said Kathleen M. O'Toole, Boston's police commissioner....

Still, some of the problems are hard to address with tougher laws....  Chief Corwin of Kansas City said that in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, people had explained it as a "lack of hope." "If I don't have skills, I don't have training, my socioeconomic situation looks desperate, do I really have hope?" he said.  "I think that ties into the anger.  If the only thing I have is my respect, that's what I carry on the street.  If someone disrespects me, they've done the ultimate to me."

February 12, 2006 at 10:30 AM | Permalink

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