Boston’s homicide count last year not only hit a 10-year high, but also took one of the biggest jumps for a city of its size, says the Boston Globe. The death toll increased by 17 percent to 75, the sixth-highest percentage increase among 15 cities with comparable populations surveyed. The number of killings fell last year in five imilarly sized cities, and also in the nation’s largest cities — New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Even with last year’s increase, Boston’s homicide rate per person falls in the middle of the pack of cities with estimated populations between 500,000 and 700,000. About 13 people per 100,000 residents were homicide victims in Boston, a rate higher than cities such as Austin, Seattle, and Portland, but lower than cities such as Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, where 42 people per 100,000 residents were slain last year.
Mayor Thomas Menino blamed the spike in homicides on the increase in the population of young males in the city, and the simultaneous decline in federal and state assistance. ”When I came into office, they told me that in eight to 10 years a bubble of adolescents would come on the scene,” he said in an interview. ”It’s happening now at the same time our [youth outreach] programs are being cut.” Criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University said that compared with a decade ago, when violent crime was plummeting across the country, the national trend is now mixed. He said the surge in violent crime has been fueled in some places by ”a greater willingness to use extreme violence,” especially among young people. David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said it often takes one killing to set off a series in cities like Boston plagued by gangs. As a result, homicide rates can spiral out of control quickly. ”It’s respect, it’s boy-girl, it’s back-and-forth vendettas,” he said.