Murder rates in four big cities have returned to levels not seen since the 1990s, an alarming surge that police officials are struggling to slow as crime nationally remains at near-historic lows, the Wall Street Journal reports. Homicide data since 1985 for the 35 largest cities shows that four—Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Memphis.—have in the past two years approached or exceeded the records set a quarter-century ago, when many cities were plagued by gang wars and a booming crack trade. Twenty-seven of the 35 largest cities saw per capita homicide rates rise since 2014, though most are still relatively low compared with 1990s levels. New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest cities, are experiencing long-term drops in murders.
Murders in Chicago last year rose to their highest rate since 1996, with 27.8 homicides for every 100,000 residents. Memphis equaled its highest rate last year in an FBI database that goes back to 1985, at 32 murders per 100,000 residents. The pace has continued in some places in the first seven weeks this year, with 47 people killed in Baltimore, putting the city on track for one of the highest annual rates since at least 1970. In Chicago, there were 330 shootings so far as of Friday, compared with 324 over the same period last year. In Milwaukee, 17 people have been killed, compared with nine at this point last year.