Homi­cide rate up, but most killings oc­cur in con­cen­trated ar­eas.

Ma­jor­ity of homi­cides hap­pen in con­cen­trated ar­eas, say re­searchers

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

The mur­der rate may be ris­ing in some U.S. cities, but slay­ings are still a lo­cal­ized phe­nom­e­non, with most U.S. coun­ties not see­ing a sin­gle mur­der in 2014.

The vast ma­jor­ity of homi­cides oc­curred in just 5 per­cent of coun­ties, and even there the mur­ders were lo­cal­ized, with some neigh­bor­hoods un­touched by the vi­o­lence, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port re­leased Tues­day by the Crime Pre­ven­tion Re­search Cen­ter.

“I just think most people have a real mis­un­der­stand­ing about how heav­ily con­cen­trated mur­ders are,” said John R. Lott Jr., the au­thor of the study. “You have over half the mur­ders in the United States tak­ing place in 2 per­cent of the coun­ties.”

Pres­i­dent Trump vowed in his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress to end “Amer­i­can car­nage” in the na­tion, es­pe­cially in crime-rid­den in­ner cities, and the re­port of­fers more data points that de­pict a dis­tinct ur­ban­rural di­vide in the U.S.

About 70 per­cent of the coun­ties, ac­count­ing for 20 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, had no more than one mur­der in 2014, with 54 per­cent of coun­ties ex­pe­ri­enc­ing zero mur­ders, the re­port found.

Mean­while, 5 per­cent of the coun­ties, which made up nearly half the pop­u­la­tion, ac­counted for more than two-thirds of mur­ders in the coun­try, with the high­est numbers con­cen­trated in ar­eas around ma­jor cities like Chicago and Bal­ti­more.

Those re­sults shouldn’t be en­tirely sur­pris­ing, as other fac­tors like poverty and hu­man ac­tiv­ity are also con­cen­trated, said David Weis­burd, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Ev­i­dence-Based Crime Pol­icy at Ge­orge Mason Univer­sity.

“All of these is­sues are fac­tors be­hind why one place has more of some­thing than the other,” Mr. Weis­burd said.

But even within cities, the di­vide was stark in cer­tain re­gions. Los An­ge­les County saw a high num­ber of homi­cides in 2014, but there were “vir­tu­ally no mur­ders” in the north­west­ern part of the county, the study found.

It also found that in Washington, D.C., whose 105 mur­ders put it in the top 20, the vast ma­jor­ity oc­curred in the eastern part of the city and that the area around the U.S. Capi­tol was “ex­tremely safe.”

Mr. Weis­burd said that in his stud­ies of larger cities, about 1 per­cent of the streets pro­duce 25 per­cent of the crime and about 5 per­cent of the streets pro­duce 50 per­cent of the crime.

“It’s al­most ex­actly the same con­cen­tra­tion in New York, Tel Aviv, Cincin­nati, Sacra­mento,” he said.

Fac­tors that ac­count for such mi­cro-dif­fer­ences can in­clude pop­u­la­tion den­sity, the num­ber of em­ploy­ees on a given block, and even ar­te­rial roads in the area, Mr. Weis­burd said.

“So al­ready, you could say that if you build an apart­ment build­ing in a street and you have a 7-Eleven or other kind of store that [is] em­ploy­ing people and it’s on an ar­te­rial road, you ought to be ready [to] try to keep crime down there,” he said.

One dif­fer­ence in the county-by­county numbers was that gun own­er­ship was heav­i­est in ru­ral and sub­ur­ban ar­eas where there were few mur­ders, Mr. Lott said.

“It has to do with lots of things. I don’t want to push it too far,” he said. “But the thing is, it’s still just striking.”

“The places where we see the mur­ders tend to be those area[s], the ur­ban ar­eas, and even tiny ar­eas within those ar­eas, where le­gal gun own­er­ship is it­self rel­a­tively rare,” he said.

Other re­cent stud­ies have shown that the U.S. mur­der rate is be­ing driven to a large de­gree by the preva­lence of such in­ci­dents in a rel­a­tively small num­ber of cities that have seen a re­cent spike. Bal­ti­more, Chicago and Hous­ton ac­counted for about half of the in­creases in homi­cides in ma­jor cities be­tween 2014 and 2016, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port from the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Justice.

The re­port also found that mur­ders spiked in Bal­ti­more and Washington, D.C., in 2015 be­fore de­clin­ing in 2016.

“There are some lo­cal spikes that are con­cern­ing, but the numbers sim­ply don’t back any claims of a na­tional crime wave,” said Ames Graw­ert, a coun­sel in the Bren­nan Cen­ter’s Justice Pro­gram and an au­thor of the re­cent anal­y­sis.

Mr. Trump fre­quently has sin­gled out Chicago, the un­of­fi­cial home­town of his pre­de­ces­sor, as a prime ex­am­ple of the prob­lem. In Jan­uary, the pres­i­dent threat­ened to “send in the feds” if Chicago couldn’t fix the “hor­ri­ble ‘car­nage’ ” go­ing on in the city.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion also has threat­ened to take away cer­tain fund­ing for “sanc­tu­ary cities” like Chicago that gen­er­ally look the other way on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, though a fed­eral judge on Tues­day ruled against an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that had aimed to block the funds.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illi­nois Demo­crat, said Tues­day that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has been send­ing a “con­fus­ing” mes­sage when it comes to fed­eral in­volve­ment in pre­vent­ing vi­o­lence.

“This ad­min­is­tra­tion can’t call it­self a ‘law and or­der’ ad­min­is­tra­tion and then do some­thing like cut the funds for vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion when po­lice chiefs across Amer­ica say that is just wrong,” Mr. Durbin said in a Se­nate floor speech.

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