The number of homicides increased in the first months of 2016 in more than two dozen major U.S. cities, going up in places that also saw spiking violence last year, according to the Washington Post.
The increases were small in some areas, and many big cities also had declines. But the numbers were particularly grim for a handful of places — Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas — where the number of homicides increased in the first three months of 2016 after killings and other violent crimes also went up in 2015.
“I was very worried about it last fall, and I am in many ways more worried, because the numbers are not only going up, they’re continuing to go up in most of those cities faster than they were going up last year,” FBI Director James B. Comey, who got an early look at the numbers, said Wednesday. “Something is happening.”
Criminologists and law enforcement officials, including Comey, say the causes of the increases are unclear, and they offer a variety of possible explanations, including gang violence and bloodshed stemming from drug addictions. Comey also again suggested that greater scrutiny of police had possibly changed the way officers and communities interact, which he said may be a factor in the uptick in homicides, an idea he voiced to much disagreement last year.
“I don’t know what the answer is, but holy cow, do we have a problem,” Comey said.Criminologists say it is too soon to draw conclusions from these increases, and they point out that homicides and crime rates in general are still far below what they were a quarter-century ago, and that urban areas are much safer than they were just a few decades ago. In Chicago, which is facing a mammoth increase in shootings and other violence, the city is on pace to have more than 500 killings for just the third time since 2004; by comparison, Chicago recorded at least 800 victims of homicide each year between 1991 and 1995 before the numbers began declining.
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