Murder rates have fallen sharply in most of the country. But St. Louis is one of a few major cities, including Memphis and Washington, where the number of homicides jumped last year, reports the New York Times. It is also one of several cities, including Baltimore, Detroit, Gary, Ind., and New Orleans, where violent crime, concentrated in low-income minority neighborhoods, has remained stubbornly high, though down from the crack-driven peaks of the early 1990s.
Why St. Louis suffered a major setback in a year in which many cities saw further progress is hotly debated. By all accounts, the proliferation of guns among young men here is beyond control, turning petty insults, neighborhood rivalries and drug disputes into lethal melees of attack and reprisal that can occur in waves. There was a 33 percent rise in homicides last year, to 159, compared with 120 in 2013 in this city of 318,000. Among other things, city officials cite what they call a “Ferguson effect,” an increase in crime last year as police officers were diverted to suburban Ferguson after a controversial police-involved shooting there.