In a story that attempts to quantify a widely reported short-term trend, the New York Times reports that more than 30 cities across the nation have seen an increase in murders in 2015. Through the first three-quarters of the year, murder was up sharply–by 44 percent or more over the same period last year–in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Baltimore and Washington. Kansas City, New Orleans, Chicago and Dallas showed increases ranging from 17 to 22 percent. New York was up 9 percent. (Some caution against drawing conclusions based on partial-year statistics. A week ago, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton retweeted this message from the NYPD: “When it comes to crime data, he who speaks too soon about trends may find himself embarrassed.”)
Experts say disparate factors are at play in different cities, though no one is claiming to know for sure why murder rates are climbing. Some officials say intense national scrutiny of the use of force by the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals, though many experts dispute that theory. Rivalries among organized street gangs, often over drug turf, and the availability of guns are cited as major factors in some cities. But more commonly, police say they are seeing a growing willingness among disenchanted young men in poor neighborhoods to use violence to settle ordinary disputes.