Homicides are rising sharply in Milwaukee; Oklahoma City; Nashville, Kansas City, and other metropolitan areas, with frustrated police saying there’s more anger and weapons on the streets, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A dirty look or a feeling of being “disrespected” can trigger fatal gunfire. Seattle rankings among the lowest among large cities in homicides per capita. There were 25 homicides reported last year, roughly 40 percent fewer than a decade ago. “The overall violent crime rate is unbelievably low for a city of this size,” said Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. “It’s clearly one of the safest big cities.” Despite the homicide numbers, overall violent crime edged up 8 percent in 2005.
Why is Seattle being spared the brunt of the spike in homicides? It doesn’t have to do with the rain or the supposed politeness of Seattleites. People in most cities — even the most crime-ridden ones — think they’re polite and friendly, said criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Police officials and experts say that Seattle’s demographics, economic prosperity, high education level, and stability in terms of people moving in and out of the city may help explain the low crime rate. The area’s relative prosperity “certainly contributes to the relative stability that you see in your homicide rate,” he added. Criminologists caution that it’s too early to say why some cities continue to enjoy historic lows in homicides, while others are enduring a sharp rise. The likeliest explanation is no explanation at all,” said Robert Weisberg, a law professor who heads Stanford University’s Criminal Justice Center.