The city once labeled “Paradise Lost” as drug-driven murder spiked to 300 a year in the 1980s had just 26 homicides in the first six months this year. Police and community leaders cite several reasons, including a citizenry fed-up with gun violence that has grown more willing to engage with law enforcers.
Is Miami, once labeled “Paradise Lost” by Time magazine because of a searing homicide rate fueled by a crippling drug trade, now one of the safest major cities in the U.S. when it comes to gunfire deaths? The Miami Herald reports that of the 26 homicides in the city through June 30, only 16 were due to gunfire. Both numbers represent historic lows for a city that often racked up close to 300 homicides during the 1980s and which has seen those numbers drop by about 75 percent over the past three years.
Police and some community leaders attribute the drop to a combination of factors: sharing of intelligence between policing agencies, more parental involvement, a persistent cry from the community to end gun violence, even new medical life-saving techniques used by surgeons who have learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We had to build bridges to open lines of trust and communication,” said Miami-Dade Homicide Maj. Calvin James. “Somewhere in the past these relationships were lost. So we made changes. And we’re starting to see the fruits of those changes.”
The Vera Institute of Justice issues briefing papers on basic crime and justice issues, contending that criminal justice policy “is too often swayed by political rhetoric and unfounded assumptions.”
U.S. violent crime rates are lower than they have been for four decades, and prisons’ impact as a crime deterrent “is minimal at best,” the Vera Institute of Justice says in two new briefing papers it issued because criminal justice policy “is too often swayed by political rhetoric and unfounded assumptions.” Summarizing crime trends, Vera says that “some media reports and public commentary” wrongly conclude that “violent crime increases in a few cities equal a sweeping national problem.” It declares that, “Recent increases in crime rates have been concentrated mostly among gun-related homicides in a few neighborhoods in a few major cities, where violent crime rates were already persistently high.”
In Vera’s view, “Overgeneralization from partial-year data on homicides in a small sample of major U.S. cities led to premature conclusions being drawn about a nationwide reversal of the general decline in violent crime.” Such reports were “unfounded,” the institute says, adding that today’s relatively lower crime rates are “not a cause for complacency; some of our communities are experiencing significant increases in violent crime.” On the prison issue, Vera says that, “Increased incarceration has no effect on violent crime and may actually lead to higher crime rates when incarceration is concentrated in certain communities.” The institute suggests that policymakers should adopt “crime reduction strategies that seek to engage the community, provide needed services to those who are criminally involved, and begin to address the underlying
causes of crime.”
So far, this year’s increase is considerably smaller than it was in each of the past two years. If recent numbers hold, the nation’s murder rate will likely rise but remain low relative to where it was from the late 1960s through the 1990s.
Big U.S. cities report another increase in murders in the first half of 2017, likely putting them on track for a third straight year of rising totals after murder rates reached historic lows in 2014, writes Jeff Asher in FiveThirtyEight.com. So far this year’s increase is considerably smaller than it was in each of the past two years; the big-city numbers are consistent with only a modest rise in murders nationwide. Overall, if recent numbers hold, the nation’s murder rate will likely rise but remain low relative to where it was from the late 1960s through the 1990s.
The patterns offer some hints about what the big-city sample suggests about the rest of the year. There tend to be more murders in the second half of the year, when it’s warmer, especially in northern cities. Between 52 and 54 percent of big-city murders occurred in the second half of the year in every year between 2010 and 2015, says the FBI. Recent history suggests that not only does the absolute number of murders increase in the second half of the year, but the rate of increase also accelerates. Big cities tend to exaggerate national murder trends, both up and down, so a large rise in big-city murder usually corresponds with a slightly smaller national increase. If murder rose roughly 8 percent nationally in 2016 and is set to rise a few percentage points in 2017, then the nation’s murder rate in 2017 will be roughly the same as it was in 2008.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh says she has a formal violence reduction plan, but she hasn’t made it public. More than 180 people have been killed in the city this year, about 30 percent more than at the same point last year.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh defended her administration’s approach to addressing crime, saying her office has developed a formal violence reduction plan in conjunction with police, the Baltimore Sun reports. The mayor said she has the plan in writing, but did not commit to making it available for public review. One of her top critics, City Councilman Brandon Scott, ended a hearing abruptly after saying the administration did not appear prepared to provide a collaborative crime plan.
The mayor offered no specifics about her plan. Her spokesman said the mayor and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis will decide whether to release it publicly. The Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, co-chairman of the advocacy group Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, said Pugh should make her crime plan available for the public to review.”This is a crisis,” he said. “Let’s all come together and develop a plan. If she has a crime-reduction plan, the public doesn’t know about it.” The mayor said she is meeting with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan talk about how to address the city’s surging violence. More than 180 people have been killed in Baltimore so far this year, about 30 percent more than at the same point last year. Pugh is seeking state help to address technology shortcomings in the city, such as expanding gunshot detection devices and equipping police cars with computers. She said that two consultants affiliated with the U.S. Department of Justice will be coming to Baltimore in early August after helping police in Los Angeles reduce crime.
Police Chief Charlie Beck called 2017 numbers a sign that police are making progress against the city’s stubborn uptick in crime, He hopes for an annual decrease this year for the first time in the city since 2014.
Crime in Los Angeles has nearly leveled off at the midyear mark, says Police Chief Charlie Beck, calling 2017’s numbers a sign that police are making progress against the city’s stubborn uptick in crime, the Los Angeles Times reports. As of July 1, overall crime was up less than 1 percent compared with the first six months of 2016, notably lower than the 6.6 percent increase halfway through 2016 and the 12.7 percent jump the year before. Beck credited the progress to a variety of factors: shifting department resources to target violent crime, improving predictive policing to help stem property crime, adapting to changes in legislation, and a “relentless focus” on crime from police department brass.
Beck also said he hoped that by the end of the year, the city would see crime drop. If overall crime ultimately falls this year, it will mark the first such decrease since 2014. “I am cautiously optimistic,” Beck said. “But we’ll see.” The most significant change this year has been in violent crime, which Beck said has risen about 1 percent. In both 2016 and 2015, the police reported double-digit increases in violent crime at the midyear mark. Still, homicides increased about 2 percent in the first six months of this year, Beck said, which he attributed in part to a 2.4 percent jump in gang-related killings. The number of gunshot victims across the city rose by roughly 4 percent.
Nightclub shooting where 28 people were injured was the third mass shooting in Arkansas this year, as many mass shootings as the state experienced in all of 2016. Little Rock has seen a bump in violent crime over the past few months. There have been 29 homicides this year, compared with 15 at this time last year.
Bryant Moore, 22, dropped to the ground as more than 50 bullets sprayed across the Power Ultra Lounge nightclub in downtown Little Rock early Saturday morning, the Washington Post reports. Some 28 people were injured — 25 by gunshots — in the nation’s largest mass shooting since Pulse nightclub attack a year earlier in Orlando. “Like a damn movie,” Moore says, describing the scene. He was shot three times, in his thigh and in both feet, which are now wrapped with black, bootlike contraptions. “I ain’t never been scared of no guns,” he says. “I guess it had to take me being shot to just come to a realization that this is not a damn game. Life is not a game.”
Authorities have said all the injured people are expected to survive. The lack of fatalities doesn’t make the incident less shocking. It is the third mass shooting in Arkansas this year, as many mass shootings as the state experienced in all of 2016. Little Rock has seen a bump in violent crime over the past few months. There have been 29 homicides this year, compared with 15 at this time last year, said Police Lt. Steven McClanahan. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that violent crime in the city in 2017 had increased more than 20 percent when compared with the 2016 figures from the same time period. Police say gang members were present at Saturday’s shooting, and some in attendance “have been on our radar screen,” McClanahan said. Ricky Hampton, known as the rapper Finese2 Tymes, was performing at Power Ultra Lounge on the night of the shooting. He was arrested Sunday in an unrelated shooting. Mayor Mark Stodola said Little Rock’s surge in violent crime is “not unlike what’s happening in other cities around the country.”
Asked if 20 additional agents sent by the Trump administration is enough, given the scope of Chicago’s illegal gun problem, Tim Jones of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives replied, “We could probably use 500 more agents.”
Twenty federal gun investigation agents recently sent to Chicago are part of a 40-person strike force of Chicago police officers, federal agents and Illinois State Police that will be working on unsolved shootings and gun-related homicides and combating illegal gun trafficking, the Chicago Tribune reports. “It is a battle which can only be fought with all hands on deck, that is, state, federal and local law enforcement,” said Joel Levin, Chicago’s acting U.S. Attorney. It isn’t the first time task forces have been formed to combat gun violence in Chicago. Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents have worked with Chicago police officers in the district that borders northwest Indiana to try to counter the flow of illegal firearms from that state.
ATF data indicates that most of the guns originating from outside of Chicago that were recovered at local crime scenes in past years came from Indiana. Tim Jones, who heads the ATF task force, said, “We are a small agency, have a small footprint but we like to cast a bigger shadow through our attitude and effort, and we’re here to help, so we’re going to do what we can to work with our partners. Asked if 20 additional agents is enough, given the scope of Chicago’s illegal gun problem, Jones replied, “We could probably use 500 more agents.” In Washington, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was whether Chicago’s crime problem was related to gun access. “I think that the problem there is pretty clear that it’s a crime problem. I think crime is probably driven more by morality than anything else,” she said.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson contends that early results from an “is evidence-based, data-driven [police] approach have even impressed some of the old-timers in the police department.”
At the year’s midpoint, 323 people have died in Chicago violence, one more homicide than a year earlier, the Chicago Tribune reports . With the bulk of the summer still ahead, the city is on course to top 700 homicides for a second consecutive year, a mark that had otherwise not been reached in two decades. Though far from ranking as the nation’s murder capital on a per-capita basis, Chicago is the runaway leader in the sheer volume of killings and shootings. Chicago had 50 more homicides than New York and Los Angeles combined through mid-June, even though it is far less populous than both.
Shootings in the city are down by 14 percent this year compared to the first six months of 2016, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. As of Friday night, 1,752 people had been shot during the first half of this year. The police department touted June as the fourth straight month with a reduction in shootings compared to the same time last year. “All of us who love this city were saddened and sickened with the level of violence last year …” said Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. “Over the first six months of 2017 we have implemented a smart policing strategy that is showing early signs of progress.” This year, the department deployed more ShotSpotter gunfire detectors and “Strategic Decision Support Centers” in five police districts. Shootings have fallen by about a third in those districts — a decline that was five times larger than districts without the so-called “intel nerve centers.” Johnson said the “early results from this evidence-based, data-driven approach have even impressed some of the old-timers in the police department.”
The numbers may buck public perception of rising crime rates and “don’t really reflect the rhetoric that we’re hearing,” said Ebony Ruhland of the University of Minnesota’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice.
Crime across Minnesota dipped in 2016, hitting its lowest statewide rate in 50 years, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The numbers show that a long trend of diminishing crime rates is continuing in Minnesota — even in urban areas — despite high-profile incidents of violence that have fueled concerns that crime could be on the rise. Factoring in the rate of 10 serious types of crime, the state saw a roughly 4 percent decline from 2015.
Violent crime alone remained static statewide compared with 2015, increasing less than 1 percent. In total, 130,941 incidents were reported in 2016, or 2,372 per every 100,000 residents, about the same rate as in 1966. Statewide, the number of murders dropped from 130 in 2015 to 100 last year, about a 23 percent decline. Robbery also decreased slightly, while rape and major assaults increased by less than 1 percent from 2015 — significantly lower than the rate of violent crime reported in the 1980s and 1990s. The numbers may buck public perception of rising crime rates and “don’t really reflect the rhetoric that we’re hearing,” said Ebony Ruhland of the University of Minnesota’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice.
The US Sentencing Commission’s quarterly report shows a decrease in the total number of criminal cases since 2016, despite a slight uptick in the last quarter which appears to be driven by immigration offenses. Immigration and drug crimes made up over 62% of criminal cases in the U.S. between October 2016 and March 2017, with firearms offenses a distant second at 11.8%.
The US Sentencing Commission (USCC) quarterly report shows a decrease in the total number of criminal cases since 2016, despite a slight uptick in the last quarter which appears to be driven by immigration offenses.
Immigration and drug crimes topped the list of offenses in the U.S. in the quarter ending in March, the commission reported. (USSC).
Tying for first place, these two offenses made up over 62% of criminal cases in the U.S. between October 2016 and March 2017, with firearms offenses a distant second at 11.8%, the USSC said in its latest quarterly report.
The USSC’s quarterly report also shows a decrease in the total number of criminal cases since 2016, despite a slight uptick in the last quarter which appears to be driven by immigration offenses.
The data show a steady increase in sentences that are above primary sentencing guidelines, from 1.9% in 2012, to an average 2.8% so far this fiscal year, while sentences below guidelines fell slightly in the second quarter.
Among sentences that fell above guidelines, the median percent increase in simple drug possession cases was 100%, while trafficking was 39.1%; immigration related sentences rose 53.3% prison offenses received a 130% increase; larceny 87.5%.
Demographics of top offenses:
- Immigration (total 10, 164 cases): 8.7% U.S. citizens; 93.6% male; 1.8% white, 1.4% black, and 96.2% hispanic;
- Drug trafficking (total 9,399): 72.9% U.S. citizens; 83.7% male; 22.3% white, 24% black, and 50.6% hispanic;
- Simple possession (total 666): 65.8% non-U.S. citizens; 87.6% male; 12.8% white, 12.6% black, and 75.4% hispanic;
- Firearms (total 3,856): 94.3% U.S. citizens; 96.8% male; 24.5% white, 51.4% black, and 21.1% hispanic;
- Fraud (total 2,937): 82% U.S. citizens;70.4% male; 41,5% white, 29.7% black, and 22.5% hispanic;
- 28.1% government-sponsored sentences below sentencing guidelines.