The Slatest

After Decades of Decline, 2015 Murder Rate Unexpectedly Spikes in Many U.S. Cities

A police cruiser in Times Square May 2, 2010 in New York.

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The New York Times crunched the homicide numbers in the U.S. this year and found a disturbing trend: The murder rate in American cities is on the rise. The increase in murders counters decades-long declines. Here’s a sampling of what the Times found:

[In Milwuakee] 104 people have been killed this year — after 86 homicides in all of 2014. More than 30 other cities have also reported increases in violence from a year ago. In New Orleans, 120 people had been killed by late August, compared with 98 during the same period a year earlier. In Baltimore, homicides had hit 215, up from 138 at the same point in 2014. In Washington, the toll was 105, compared with 73 people a year ago. And in St. Louis, 136 people had been killed this year, a 60 percent rise from the 85 murders the city had by the same time last year.

What those numbers add up to, over approximately the same period this year compared to 2014, is: Milwaukee’s murder rate is up 76 percent; St. Louis and Baltimore are both up more than 50 percent; murders in Washington, D.C. are up 44 percent, and Chicago has seen a 20 percent rise. Not all metros have seen a similar trend, as cities like Los Angeles and Newark have remained about the same. New York’s murder rate is up about 9 percent this year.

“Law enforcement experts say disparate factors are at play in different cities, though no one is claiming to know for sure why murder rates are climbing,” according to the Times. “Some officials say intense national scrutiny of the use of force by the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals, though many experts dispute that theory.” Increased and more brazen gang activity as well as access to guns are also bounced around as potential motivators for increasing amounts of deadly violence. “But more commonly,” the Times notes, “many top police officials say they are seeing a growing willingness among disenchanted young men in poor neighborhoods to use violence to settle ordinary disputes.”