2015 has proven to be a year of increasing bloodshed throughout America. Cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Baltimore, New York, St. Louis, and Houston have seen a dramatic increase in the number of homicides after enjoying several years of relative peace.
This is “scary territory,” says Peter Scharf, a Louisiana State University professor who tracks and studies homicides in New Orleans.
In Milwaukee, the number of homicides so far in 2015 is just two fewer than the total number of 2014. In LA, the number of deaths by gunshot has increased by almost 20%. Gun violence has become so bad in Chicago that the city has earned the nickname “Chiraq.”
Police are trying to discern whether or not this gristly pattern is a trend or a coincidence. According to criminologist Charis Kubrin: “A lot of retaliatory violence occurs because people don’t trust police. They don’t want to go to police because they don’t see police as helping them.”
His theory makes since, especially considering the public’s outrage after the deaths of Freddie Grey and Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Of the 688 individuals arrested for illegal firearms in Chicago during the first few months of 2015, more than 50% were back on the street by the beginning of spring.
Police departments nationwide enjoyed considerable federal support during he 1990’s, but that money is almost gone. When cops are afraid of being second guessed and law enforcement agencies suffer budget cuts, something bad is sure to happen.
This “something bad” takes a different form in each city. May 2015 was the deadliest month in nearly 50 years for the city of Baltimore in regards to homicides. Much of this violence can be traced to the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in April after suffering fatal wounds while in police custody.
Freddie’s death incited violent riots that forced Baltimore’s mayor to declare a state of emergency. The number of arrests plummeted after six local cops were charged with the young man’s death. Are the cops now afraid to confront citizens?
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts says that police are frustrated, but are not shirking their duties. He believes a big part of the violence in Baltimore is connected to recent pharmacy lootings that have released a flood of prescription drugs into the city.
A recent ruling in New York that found stop-and-frisk tactics were oftentimes discriminatory has police departs across the country on their toes.
“Maybe we don’t want hundreds of thousands of people stopped and frisked to get a few guns, and maybe we will have to accept that murders are going to go up 10 percent,” says professor Peter Moskos of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “I don’t know, [but] we really do have to talk about the trade-offs.”