Despite attracting wide attention to its grim and grinding violence – including President Trump’s denunciations of its “carnage” – Chicago is not the U.S. murder capital, reports RealClearInvestigations. In fact, it’s not even close. St. Louis has held that dubious distinction for three years running, reaching nearly 60 murders per 100,000 residents last year – more than double Chicago’s rate despite the latter’s nation-leading raw total of 762, its most killings in 18 years. Following closely behind St. Louis in per capita murder rates are Baltimore (51.1 per 100,000), New Orleans (45.2), and Detroit (44.6). Chicago, with a rate of 28, was back in eighth place behind Cleveland, Newark, and Memphis.
Even more surprising than the level of carnage in St. Louis is the primary cause. Despite its proximity to riot-scarred Ferguson, authorities say the violence is not mainly due to the so-called “Ferguson Effect”–racially charged police-community tensions reducing cooperation and allowing crime to spiral out of control. Instead, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson lays the blame on something farther afield – Mexican drug cartels and the heroin trade. The Trace, a blog on gun violence, says St. Louis’ Greater Ville neighborhood posted a homicide rate three times higher than the deadliest country in the world: Honduras. The cartel violence is characterized by homicide spikes where two or more cartels are competing for influence and customers.