It always takes a while for the feds to compile all of the crime statistics for any given year and 2016 won’t be any exception. (In a country of this size with literally tens of thousands of police and sheriff’s departments reporting in that’s understandable.) But the FBI has some preliminary numbers which foreshadow what we can expect when the full reports are released. If you thought you saw a lot of murders going on in some of the country’s larger cities last year it wasn’t just your imagination. The Washington Examiner has the early figures and murder and violent crime rates are going in the wrong direction.
The nationwide murder rate rose in 2016, mostly because of a rise in murders in larger U.S. cities, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law predicted a near 8 percent increase in the nationwide murder rate for 2016, based on preliminary FBI data from the first half of last year.
The reason for the uptick in the murder rate is in large part because of Baltimore, Chicago and Houston, which together “account for around half of the increase in murder in major cities between 2014 and 2016.”
An 8% rise over the previous year is nothing to sneeze at. Now, to be fair, the report goes on to caution people against worrying over some sort of a “national crime wave.” That’s not the case at all. In fact, for the vast majority of the country (in terms of land mass, not population) the murder rate is actually still going down. And crime in general is also slowly decreasing, remaining far below the worst levels we saw in the 90s.
But those facts don’t mitigate the underlying problem. As the excerpt above indicates, three cities – Chicago, Baltimore and Houston – account for roughly half of the urban killing rate increase. And 43.7% of that was just from Chicago. Pretending that this isn’t a worrisome trend which could continue to spread and pointing to the relatively static figures for the rest of the country is akin to being on the Titanic and saying that aside from that one big gash in the side, the rest of the ship is still a wonder to behold.
With that in mind, perhaps the police departments in our larger cities should be taking a fresh look at their procedures and figuring out how to more effectively combat gang violence. Some of them are indeed making changes, but I’m not entirely sure we’re going in the right direction. Take, for example, a new set of rules being adopted in Los Angeles. (LA Times)
Commissioners on Tuesday are expected to approve a new use-of-force policy that would require officers to try, whenever possible, to defuse tense encounters before using deadly force — a decades-old concept known as “de-escalation.”
The change would allow the commission to judge officers specifically on whether they could have found a way to resolve an encounter without resorting to firing their weapons. The move is the culmination of a series of actions aimed at reducing shootings.
Assuming you can find any officers who aren’t already trying to “deescalate” tense situations before engaging in a gunfight, that’s all well and good. Nobody wants to see suspects being shot needlessly (and potentially shooting back at both police and random civilians in response) but is that really the biggest fish we have to fry? The total number of people shot by police officers in this country isn’t a drop in the bucket compared to the American Carnage (to borrow the President’s phrase) going on in some of these cities. And if we don’t get serious about this soon it could easily spread to other population centers.