In city after city, officials who hoped a 2005 spike in homicides had been a one-year aberration cringed at the numbers for 2006, says commentator Fred Grimm in the Miami Herald: “Police chiefs and sheriffs, who took too much credit when homicide rates were declining, now find themselves catching hell.” The Orlando Sentinel went after the local sheriff, saying in an editorial that “Decrying the `culture of violence,’ as Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary does, is fine. But is he doing enough about it? After all, this isn’t new. A record murder rate was set in 2005, only to be broken in 2006 with 64 murders.”
Grimm quotes Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox as attributing the trend to demographics. Fox cited an increase in black and Hispanic youths — a segment disproportionately poor, badly educated, neglected, often raised by single mothers and susceptible to the allure of gang membership. The demographic spike has been exacerbated by teens’ easy access to guns. Big cities, Fox said, thinking that crime wasn’t such a big problem, have cut police budgets in proportion to their population by an average of 10 percent since 2000. Fox saw some good news in the demographics: the deadly trend could be over by 2020.