From the NY Times:
March 9, 2007
Violent Crime in Cities Shows Sharp Surge
By KATE ZERNIKE
Violent crime rose by double-digit percentages in cities across the country over the last two years, reversing the declines of the mid-to-late 1990s, according to a new report by a prominent national law enforcement association.
While overall crime has been declining nationwide, police officials have been warning of a rise in murder, robbery and gun assaults since late 2005, particularly in midsize cities and the Midwest. Now, they say, two years of data indicates that the spike is more than an aberration.
“There are pockets of crime in this country that are astounding,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which is releasing the report on Friday. “It’s gone under the radar screen, but it’s not if you’re living on the north side of Minneapolis or the south side of Los Angeles or in Dorchester, Mass.”
Local police departments blame several factors: the spread of methamphetamine use in some Midwestern and Western cities, gangs, high poverty and a record number of people being released from prison. But the biggest theme, they say, is easy access to guns and a willingness, even an eagerness, to settle disputes with them, particularly among young people.
“There’s a mentality among some people that they’re living some really violent video game,” said Chris Magnus, the police chief in Richmond, Calif., north of San Francisco, where homicides rose 20 percent and gun assaults 65 percent from 2004 to 2006. “What’s disturbing is that you see that the blood’s real, the death’s real.”
The research forum surveyed 56 cities and sheriffs’ departments — as small as Appleton Wis., about 100 miles northwest of Milwaukee, and as large as Chicago and Houston. Over all, from 2004 to 2006, homicides increased 10 percent and robberies 12 percent.