The uneven trend of violence in the U.S.–getting worse in some cities, better in others, has has criminologists worried, reports National Public Radio. Criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University finds the national increase in robberies especially troubling, because that category always has served as a warning of what’s to come. “There’s clearly a growing number of people who have no future in our economy,” Blumstein says. “There are basically three modes of earning income: One is to have a job, the other is welfare. The third is theft.”
The last time robbery jumped so dramatically was in the early 1990s, at the height of crack-cocaine use. Experts believe drug addiction was behind most of the robberies then; crack markets stabilized in the 10 years since, and so has drug use in general. Blumstein says the problem now is likely the historic numbers of inmates returning home from prison with no job prospects or skills. There’s also been a proliferation of handguns in recent years, as well as a growing rise of retaliatory killings in some cities. “Regardless of why crime has gone up, I can tell you what the solution is going to be. It’s to pay more attention to the problem and devote more resources to addressing it,” says Gene Voegtlin of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.