Violent crime rose by double-digit percentages in many U.S. cities in the last two years, reversing the declines of the mid-to-late 1990s, says a Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) survey reported by the New York Times. While overall crime has declined nationwide, police officials have warned of a rise in murder, robbery, and gun assaults since late 2005, particularly in midsize cities and the Midwest. Now, they say, two years of data indicates that the spike is more than an aberration. “There are pockets of crime in this country that are astounding,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of PERF. “It's gone under the radar screen, but it's not if you're living on the north side of Minneapolis or the south side of Los Angeles or in Dorchester, Ma.”
Police cite several causes, including the spread of methamphetamine in some Midwestern and Western cities, gangs, high poverty and a record number of people being released from prison. The biggest theme is easy access to guns and a willingness, even an eagerness, to settle disputes with them, particularly among young people. “There's really no rhyme or reason with these homicides,” said Edward Davis, Boston police commissioner. “An incident will occur involving disrespect, a fight over a girl. Then there's a retaliation aspect where if someone shoots someone else; their friends will come back and shoot at the people that did it.” The data are based on a survey of 56 cities and sheriffs’ departments. Overall, from 2004 to 2006, homicides increased 10 percent and robberies 12 percent. The report can be found at www.policeforum.org.