SURGE IN VI­O­LENCE

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE

Vi­o­lent crime is on the rise this year in some of the coun­try’s big­gest cities, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics, which find Chicago still leads as the dead­li­est city while homi­cide cases have in­creased in Bal­ti­more and New Or­leans.

The 62 po­lice de­part­ments that pro­vided data for the Ma­jor Cities Chiefs As­so­ci­a­tion’s midyear crime sur­vey re­ported 3,081 homi­cides in the first six months of the year, an in­crease of 3 per­cent over the same time last year.

The de­part­ments recorded nearly 4,000 more ag­gra­vated as­saults this year than at the same pe­riod in 2016, though re­ports of other vi­o­lent crime — in­clud­ing rape, rob­bery and non­fa­tal shoot­ings — re­mained about even.

Na­tional crime rates have dropped for two decades and re­main far be­low peaks reached in the early 1990s, but vi­o­lence in some of the coun­try’s big­gest cities has drawn at­ten­tion to the prob­lem.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion says it takes the num­bers se­ri­ously.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions re­peat­edly cited statis­tics show­ing a rise in crime as he an­nounced Jus­tice Depart­ment ini­tia­tives aimed at re­duc­ing gun vi­o­lence, il­le­gal drug sales or com­bat­ing gangs. He re­cently called on law en­force­ment lead­ers to help “re­verse this new surge in vi­o­lent crime.”

Of the 62 de­part­ments that re­ported data, 32 said the num­ber of homi­cides has risen and 35 said there were more ag­gra­vated as­saults.

Chicago’s data showed it was about on the same pace as 2016 and still leads the coun­try, with 328 peo­ple killed in the first six months of this year. It added nearly 100 more in July and early Au­gust, with the to­tal at 423 as of Aug. 11, ac­cord­ing

Chicago still na­tion’s dead­li­est, but cases spike in other big cities

to lo­cal news re­ports.

“The good news to take from that is Chicago isn’t get­ting worse,” said Ames Graw­ert, coun­sel at the Brennan Cen­ter Jus­tice Pro­gram. “But the bad news is that it’s not get­ting bet­ter. You are not see­ing the num­bers fall back to earth yet.”

Homi­cides in Bal­ti­more were up 24 per­cent, with 170 killed from Jan­uary to June. By Aug. 7, the num­ber hit 211 homi­cides — with two peo­ple fa­tally shot dur­ing a com­mu­nity-or­ga­nized cease-fire week­end.

Other cities re­port­ing sig­nif­i­cant homi­cide in­creases this year in­clude Char­lotte-Meck­len­burg, North Carolina; Colum­bus, Ohio; Kansas City; Nashville, Ten­nessee; New Or­leans; Philadel­phia; and Tulsa, Ok­la­homa.

“The uptick in mur­ders is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the vi­o­lent crime wave seen over the past sev­eral years,” said Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman Drew Hud­son.

The sus­pected rea­sons for the upticks vary. The Jus­tice Depart­ment points to gang con­flicts, such as those sur­round­ing the drug trade and heroin and opi­oid use, as its big­gest ob­sta­cle in ad­dress­ing homi­cides.

“A chal­leng­ing pri­or­ity for the Depart­ment of Jus­tice is dis­man­tling the crim­i­nal gangs, which func­tion as the street-level drug dis­tri­bu­tion net­works for transna­tional drug car­tels and fuel much of the vi­o­lence in our coun­try through turf wars and vi­o­lent drug traf­fick­ing,” Mr. Hud­son said.

Dar­rel Stephens, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ma­jor Cities Chiefs As­so­ci­a­tion, said that de­spite an uptick in homi­cides, the rate of growth is lower than re­cent years.

He said some city po­lice de­part­ments point to gang vi­o­lence as the driv­ing force be­hind ris­ing homi­cides while oth­ers have com­plained about the lack of opportunity for those re­turn­ing from stints in prison. Un­able to find jobs or sta­ble hous­ing, some former of­fend­ers re­turn to lives of crime, he said. Other de­part­ments say easy ac­cess to firearms turns petty dis­agree­ments or street brawls fa­tal.

“In most of the cities, the con­cen­tra­tion of this vi­o­lence is in high-poverty neigh­bor­hoods. It’s not spread out through­out the whole pop­u­la­tion,” Mr. Stephens said.

New Or­leans-based crime an­a­lyst Jeff Asher said a lack of po­lice re­sources may play a role in his city.

The New Or­leans Po­lice Depart­ment, which lost 30 per­cent of its man­power from 2010 to 2016, recorded 96 homi­cides in the first six months of this year, up 28 from the same time last year. There were also 73 more non­fa­tal shoot­ings, a to­tal of 226, halfway through the year.

Mr. Asher es­ti­mates that the city is on pace to have 40 per­cent more shoot­ings by the end of the year.

But sev­eral cities — in­clud­ing the District of Columbia, Hous­ton and At­lanta — with upticks in homi­cides in 2016 re­ported less deadly vi­o­lence this year.

In New York City, which did not sub­mit data to the chief’s as­so­ci­a­tion, Mayor Bill de Bla­sio re­cently touted 2017 as “the safest year on record.” Ma­jor crimes were down 8 per­cent and homi­cides down 20 per­cent, with 165 recorded as of Aug. 6.

“The ques­tion is what the ceil­ing, what’s the floor and what’s the cause?” Mr. Asher said. “All of these cities be­lie a sim­ple an­swer.”

To stem vi­o­lent crime on the na­tional level, the Jus­tice Depart­ment has em­braced poli­cies aimed at tar­get­ing vi­o­lent of­fend­ers for harsher pun­ish­ment, dis­man­tling crim­i­nal gangs and strength­en­ing en­force­ment of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion laws.

Mr. Ses­sions has di­rected fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors to charge de­fen­dants with the most se­ri­ous prov­able charges pos­si­ble — a move likely to re­sult in more fre­quent use of manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences and an in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple in fed­eral pris­ons.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment also has sought to com­pel cities to pro­vide more aid to fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents as they work to lo­cate and de­port il­le­gal im­mi­grants, with con­di­tions on co­op­er­a­tion for some grant fund­ing.

Some cities, in­clud­ing Chicago, have balked at the re­quests. They say im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties are less likely to re­port crimes if they fear in­ter­ac­tion with po­lice could lead to de­por­ta­tion.

While grant fund­ing may be at risk to cities that de­cline to co­op­er­ate, the depart­ment is still com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing other forms of aid, said Mr. Hud­son. The depart­ment this year sent ad­di­tional agents from the Bureau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives to Chicago to help in­ves­ti­gate gun crimes and to stop the flow of il­le­gally pos­sessed guns in the city.

“The Depart­ment of Jus­tice is com­mit­ted to work­ing with law en­force­ment part­ners to re­duce vi­o­lence — not just through grant fund­ing — but if ju­ris­dic­tions de­lib­er­ately and in­ten­tion­ally adopt poli­cies that are hos­tile to and ob­struct the rule of law, they cre­ate an even more dan­ger­ous en­vi­ron­ment that will not be fixed by sim­ply throw­ing more money at a law­less sys­tem,” Mr. Hud­son said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

BY THE NUM­BERS: Chicago po­lice are as busy as they were last year with homi­cide cases. Re­ports showed the city still leads the coun­try in homi­cides, with at least 423 killed as of Aug. 11 ac­cord­ing to lo­cal news re­ports, but the rate doesn’t ap­pear to be ris­ing.

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