A missing Army Reservist found in a St. Louis alley yesterday died of a gunshot wound, making him the city's 159th murder victim and tying last year's homicide total with 2½ months left to go in 2015, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was a grim milestone in a grim year, when homicide totals and overall crime rates have surged from the historic lows that much of the U.S. saw in the past decade. The homicide total in St. Louis County, now at least 48, has long surpassed last year's tally of 37. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson suggests the city is again following national trends, which he says show other large U.S. cities struggling with mounting homicide counts. He acknowledges that comprehensive and timely information is lacking, and that his observations are anecdotal. In an informal survey by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Dotson was among the 75 percent of respondents who reported rising homicides in the first six months of 2015.
Counts from the FBI run further behind. The agency released 2014 data in September, leaving police commanders to make strategic decisions without a good view of the national picture. “The police can provide insight into what they are seeing on the ground, but … we need to take a broader look at not just the trees but the forest too,” said Eric Baumer, a criminologist at Penn State University. “To guess what's going on is irresponsible — especially to guess in a way to draw attention to issues that may or may not be there and can do some damage.” For now, the only way to gauge homicide trends nationally is to rely on city-by-city news accounts, he said. A mid-August analysis by FiveThirtyEight.com showed that St. Louis, at 60th in population, at that point had more murders than all but seven of its larger counterparts. Then, it was only 78 fewer than New York City, which has about 24 times the population.