Will crime increases in many American cities be treated only as local problems in next year’s election campaigns? That is the fear of some experts who spoke yesterday at a forum sponsored by Criminal Justice Journalists at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in New Orleans. Because many homicides involve people who know each other, the tendency of some observers is to say that “the victims and suspects don’t matter,” said Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle. Kunkle deplored that attitude, asserting that his department takes all murders seriously. He suspects that violent crime will be viewed by national politicians as a “problem of individual cities.”
Cities with relatively high per capita homicide rates, like Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, and Oakland, are places that have had historic crime problems, Kunkle noted. His own city, Dallas, may record its lowest murder total this year since 1967. Peter Scharf, criminologist from Texas State University, said news media coverage of homicides runs a “predictable cycle” that often ends with the problem being ignored. Three murders in New Orleans during the IACP convention got scant coverage, he said. (Although that was true yesterday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported today that “six people died during a violent weekend in New Orleans that in three days saw eight people shot, including an off-duty police officer who was severely wounded when two armed men invaded his home.” The deadly weekend brought the 2007 city homicide total to 163, bypassing last year’s total of 162.