Violent Crime Increasing, F.B.I. Says

Mark Shiffer

Violent crime in the United States rose significantly in 2015. But there is also a silver lining to the latest statistics. Violence is still below peak levels from the 1970s through the 1990s. The rise in violent crimes was also more striking in several large cities rather than across the country. The latest figures were revealed by the F.B.I. The F.B.I.'s annual report on crime showed that murder, rape, and physical assaults cases have gone up over the last few years but remain well below levels in earlier decades.

The most alarming increase in violent crime came from murders. There was a 10.8 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. Some of the cities with the highest increases in murders were Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington. The worst hit city seems to be Chicago, which had 478 murders in 2015, up from 411 the year before. Even more alarming is that with three months still to go in 2016, Chicago already has over 500 murders reported so far.

Although there are some theories as to why some violent crimes have increased over the last few years, there are no concrete answers or solutions. One possible reason for the spike in crime is a growing heroin trade in the United States and the resulting turf wars. Another theory is made by F.B.I. Director James P. Comey. He believes that with increasing scrutiny over police forces in large urban centers following a series of fatal shootings of African-American men, police are making attempts to be less confrontational around criminal activity, reports the New York Times.

United States Attorney-General Loretta E. Lynch has condemned the increase in violent crime and says that the nation has a responsibility to end it. But she also cautioned that 2015 still represented the third-lowest year for violent crime in the past two decades.

The latest F.B.I. figures on violent crime are likely to be used part of the American presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In particular, Trump has been arguing that crime in the United States is getting out of control, and has been running as a candidate for more law and order.

Advocates for criminal justice reform are worried that the increasing attention to recent violent crime figures will lead to tougher crime policies from politicians. They argue that the United States already has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and that violent crimes and prison sentences disproportionately affects black Americans.

The Fair Punishment Project, a center based at Harvard Law School, is arguing that the country is safer from violent crime under current President Barack Obama than at any other time over the last half century. They claim that violent acts are at historic lows, and the United States is safer than it has been for a long time, NPR reports.

Some large American cities didn't see any spike in violent crimes in 2015. Murder rates in New York and Los Angeles remained close to historic lows.

[Featured Image by Mark Duncan/AP Images]