The national murder total has been trending down for decades. That’s not true in Columbus. The city ranks 14th in the U.S. in population, but its homicide rate was seventh-highest last year, at 12 people killed for every 100,000 residents. The city had 106 homicides last year and 99 in 2015, the Columbus Dispatch reports. “We’re not able to blame a couple extra murders on any one particular problem. Violent crime in general has gone down,” said police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner. Chicago’s 2016 murder rate of 28 per 100,000 people was the highest among the 15 biggest U.S. cities. “There’s no definitive answer to why we’re seeing the uptick in cities,” said Darrel Stephens of the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association.
Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis points to the opioid epidemic and the effects of law-enforcement agencies cutting back on policing efforts since high-profile use-of-force incidents led to protests. Also, some minorities might not report crimes because they don’t trust the police. Instead, they handle conflicts themselves, which can lead to more violence, Rosenfeld said. In Chicago, the number of stops and arrests have declined, he noted. Weiner said Columbus police are not pulling back. “We’re not seeing that here at all. Officers are going out there and doing their jobs. They’re making arrests. The (patrol) cars are out there rolling.” The heroin and synthetic-opioid epidemic has showed no signs of easing, leading to drug dealers clamoring for business and territory. Turf wars often lead to violence. “These are not disputes that can be settled by the Better Business Bureau, police or courts,” Rosenfeld said. “They are often settled by violence.”