As violent crime reports are dropping, the U.S. murder total rose last year for the fourth consecutive year, says the Associated Press. Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University said the rise in murders is partly traceable to an upsurge in urban youth gang violence. The FBI said there were 819 juvenile gang killings last year, compared with 580 in 1999. “It’s quite clear that at least in terms of homicide, the great 1990s crime drop is officially over and has been for some time,” Fox said. “While this does not signal any epidemic of homicide in this country, we cannot ignore what has happened in the past few years.”
The Bush administration seized on the positive numbers – overall violent crime is down 3.1 percent since 1999 – as evidence that its law enforcement policies are working. Attorney General John Ashcroft said factors in the reduction include stepped-up federal prosecution of gun crimes, arrest of more drug offenders. and longer prison sentencing policies for repeat offenders. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said more money is needed for gang prevention, the COPS program that provides grants for new police officers, and other anticrime initiatives. The report showed more than two-thirds of last year’s murders were committed with a firearm, roughly the same portion as every year since 1999. Americans for Gun Safety, an advocacy group, said that demonstrated the government’s inability to stop criminals from obtaining guns.