Several major cities recorded a dramatic surge in homicides in 2015’s first half, reports USA Today. Milwaukee, whose homicide total last year was one of the lowest in history, has tallied 80 murders this year, more than double the 39 at the same point last year. Police Chief Edward Flynn said the mounting toll is being driven by Wisconsin’s “absurdly weak” gun laws (carrying a concealed weapon without a license is a misdemeanor), a subculture that affirms the use of deadly violence to achieve status, and growing distrust of police in some places. Baltimore, New Orleans and St. Louis have seen the murder total jump 33 percent or more. Homicides are up 19 percent and shootings up 21 percent in Chicago, the third largest U.S. city.
In all the cities, the violence disproportionately affects poor and African-American and Latino neighborhoods. In parts of Milwaukee, the sound of gunfire has become so expected that 80 percent of gunfire detected by ShotSpotter sensors isn’t called into police by residents. “We’ve got folks out there living in neighborhoods, where …it’s just part of the background noise,” Flynn said. “That’s what we’re up against.” Criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University said the current surge in murders in some big cities could amount to no more than a blip historically. Others say the U.S. may be nearing a floor in reducing its murder rate as governments are grappling with tighter budgets. Peter Scharf of Louisiana State University said, “You don’t have the resources at any level of government to fund a proactive law enforcement.”