More Recent Murders in London Than in New York City

London Mayor Sadiq Khan put 300 more police on the streets this month and threatened all knife-wielders, whether they’ve assaulted anyone or not, with “the full force of the law.” London has banned carrying a knife in public without “good reason” for years.

London saw more murders in February and March than New York City (37 vs. 32), for apparently the first time, reports This has led to calls for both heavier policing and social media censorship. London’s murder number total for 2018 so far is now over 53 (vs. 130 total in 2017), with at least 35 from stabbing, and its murder rate over the past three years has gone up nearly 40 percent. The comparison between London and New York is less about London becoming a hellhole and more about New York City becoming amazingly less of one. In 1990, New York had 2,245 murders. While London relied more on racially unbalanced stop-and-frisk searches to cope with crime, New York has found that curtailing those practices, has not, despite law-and-order fears, led to increasing crime.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has sent 300 more police on the streets this month and threatened all knife-wielders, whether they’ve assaulted anyone or not, with “the full force of the law.” (London has banned carrying a knife in public without “good reason” for years.) For many Londoners, carrying a knife in a dangerous city is an understandable matter of self-defense. Some in London believe that a stronger public health/social services approach to curbing violent crime (which some claim helped cut Glasgow’s murder rate in half from 2005 to 2015) might work where more policing might not. Others blame a national-level lowering in police funding and staffing for the rising murder numbers. But the relation between policing efforts and British crime is by no means clear-cut. According to The Guardian, a leaked report on policing and crime from the U.K.’s Home Office says that it was unlikely that “lack of deterrence” was the catalyst for the rise in serious violence. “Forces with the biggest falls in police numbers are not seeing the biggest rises in serious violence.”


Rental Car Firms Seek More GPS Use to Stop Thefts

Companies protest California law that prevents them from tracking their customers until the vehicle has been missing for at least five days.

The use of GPS to track stolen vehicles is at the center of a debate between car rental companies and privacy advocates in California, the Washington Post reports. Most rental cars are equipped with navigation and GPS technology. Unlike automakers that can begin tracking their customer’s movements as soon as they drive off the lot, California law bars rental companies from tracking their customer’s location until the vehicle has been missing at least five days past its return date. Some car rental companies want to decrease the number of days significantly, making it possible to track the movements of customers who failed to return vehicles on time. Privacy advocates worry that allowing companies to track customers could open the door to privacy abuses, such as collecting and selling valuable consumer data.

Rental company owners like Sharky Laguana say the law has encouraged a rash of thefts over the past few years as car thieves realize they can “rent” a vehicle with a five-day head start on police. Within hours, a fairly new car can end up in a chop shop across town or be en route to a nearby port to be shipped elsewhere in the world, police say. Laguana said his vans have ended up in Chad and Saudi Arabia. State law treats missing rental vehicles as a “contractual dispute” between rental companies and customers. “It is ironic in this day and age — with how much access to how much information that everyone else has — that we aren’t able to access that data, even when you’re in breach of a rental contract,” Laguana said. “Do we allow you to stay in a hotel room for five days before we kick you out?”


Baltimore Crime Down, Mayor ‘Not Satisfied’

Homicides are down 27 percent and non-fatal shootings dropped 23 percent, but that is in comparison to last year, the deadliest on record in the city.

Crime in Baltimore was down through the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period last year, continuing a trend that began slowly in November, the Baltimore Sun reports. There were 60 killings in Baltimore in 2018 as of Monday, compared with 79 during the same period last year. Through March 24, homicides were down 27 percent from last year and non-fatal shootings were down 23 percent. The declines are only in comparison to 2017,  the deadliest year on record. Crime remains above five-year averages, and gunfire marred the holiday weekend and continued Monday.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, chair of the council’s public safety committee, said he is “encouraged” by the fact that crime is down from last year — when the city saw historic levels of violence — but that alone doesn’t mark success. “A football coach is not going to say, ‘Oh, if we go from 0-15 to 2-13, that’s success,’ ” he said. “No. I’m looking for success compared to our historic lows, like in 2011. That’s going to be the baseline for me.” There were 197 homicides in Baltimore in 2011, the fewest of any year since 1978. Mayor Catherine Pugh said she also is “not satisfied” with the reductions in crime since last year, but believes the city is moving in the right direction. Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, who replaced Commissioner Kevin Davis after Pugh fired Davis in January, said the mayor’s violence reduction initiative, which targets city resources to violent neighborhoods, is making a difference. De Sousa also cited the special deployments in problem corridors and a massive warrant sweep with state and federal partners that led to hundreds of arrests from mid-January to mid-February as contributing to the declines in crime.


Pittsburgh Police Claim Credit for Crime Decline

Robberies declined 20 percent last year; murders went down slightly. Police cite a “group violence intervention” strategy for a reduction in non-fatal shootings.

Pittsburgh officials lauded a year-over-year drop in gun violence and other crimes Tuesday, crediting the declines to police efforts, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Shootings in the city dropped to a 12-year low in 2017, with 147 fatal and non-fatal shootings in 2017 compared to 180 in 2016. The data exclude accidental and self-inflicted shootings. The city also saw declines in the number of murders, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, vehicle thefts and arson in 2017 compared to 2016.

Reported robberies saw the most significant decrease, dropping 20 percent from 1,007 in 2016 to 804 in 2017. Police recorded 59 murders in 2016 and 58 in 2017, a 2 percent decline. Police Chief Scott Schubert said the reduced crime is the result of hard work by many throughout the department, including officers on the street, detectives and the Bureau’s specialty units. Schubert and Mayor Bill Peduto credited the recently revived Group Violence Intervention strategy for the reduction in non-fatal shootings, which aims to reduce gang-related gun violence. Police identify the most at-risk group members in the city and deliver a message: either stop shooting and get help starting a new life — what police call an “honorable exit” from violence — or face the full force of law enforcement. Authorities then provide social services to those who give up violence and carrying out focused “enforcement actions” against the individuals and groups who continue to shoot.


In Flint, Fighting Crime and Decay by Planting Flowers

Using Flint as a laboratory, researchers found that a busy street becomes an incubator for resurgence. They said their model turns “broken windows” on its head.

Neighborhoods struggling with physical decline and high crime often become safer when local residents work together to fix up their neighborhood, Marc Zimmerman of the University of Michigan writes in CityLab. He and a group of colleagues say their search shows how small changes to urban environments—like planting flowers or adding benches—reduce violence. The result is an emerging crime prevention theory they call “busy streets.”

Busy streets flips the logic of the broken windows theory—a controversial criminological approach to public safety—on its head. Broken windows defenders see urban disorder in U.S. cities—graffiti, litter, actual broken windows, and the like—as a catalyst of antisocial behavior. So they direct police to crack down on minor offenses like vandalism, turnstile jumping, and public drinking. Proponents of busy streets theory, on the other hand, believe it’s better for neighborhoods to clean up and maintain their own city streets. Their research in Flint, Mich., has tracked a resurgence that followed improvements by a group a group of residents, businesses and two local colleges along a 3-mile stretch of University Avenue running through the Carriagetown neighborhood of central Flint.


Explosion at FedEx Center Linked to Austin Blasts

Authorities believe that a package bomb explosion Tuesday morning at a FedEx facility near San Antonio is connected to a series of bombings in Austin that have killed two people.

A package bomb that exploded at a FedEx facility near San Antonio early Tuesday is likely linked to attacks by a serial bomber that have killed two people in Austin, USA Today reports. “It would be silly for us not to admit that we suspect it’s related” into four bombings in Austin this month, said FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee. The incident happened at about 12:30 a.m. at a FedEx Ground distribution center in Schertz, Tx. Schertz police said the explosion came from a package in the sorting area of the facility.

One person was treated for injuries and released at the scene. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI were sent to the scene as well as SWAT and bomb squads from the San Antonio Police Department. Four explosions about 80 miles away in Austin this month have killed two people and wounded four more. Authorities have said those blasts most likely were connected. The most recent Austin blast seriously wounded two men Sunday in a quiet southwest neighborhood. Police Chief Brian Manley said 500 law enforcement officials involved in the case at the local, state and federal levels have found “persons of interest,” but no clear suspects have emerged. Authorities have asked residents to share home-security video for clues. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state is committing $265,000 to the effort to solve the bombings.


Austin Explosions Investigated as Possible Hate Crimes

An Austin teenager was killed and several others were injured Monday when two packages left on doorsteps exploded. They were the second and third parcel explosions in the Texas capital in two weeks. Two of the victims were African Americans and one was Hispanic,

An Austin teenager was killed and several others were injured Monday when two packages left on doorsteps exploded. They were the second and third parcel explosions in the Texas capital in two weeks, USA Today reports. Police Chief Brian Manley said the three incidents were similar enough that police are investigating them together. Because two of the victims were African Americans and one was Hispanic, investigators also were viewing the attacks as possible hate crimes. Local police are working with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine whether the three bombs were similar and to identify the person, or people, who built them.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who planted the bombs. In all three cases, packages were left on a doorstep during the night and residents found them in the morning. The first incident occurred March 2 in a home in northern Austin. Anthony House, 39, was killed, but his death was not initially ruled a homicide because it was an “isolated incident.” After two more explosions on Monday, House’s death was reclassified as a homicide and added to the broader investigation. The first call Monday came at 6:44 a.m. A 17-year-old male and an “adult female” found a package on their doorstep and opened it inside their kitchen. Neighbors called police after hearing an explosion inside the house. The teen died in the hospital. As investigators combed through the scene, police responded to another bomb report and found a 75-year-old Hispanic woman who also had found a package outside that exploded when she opened it. Manley said she was facing “life-threatening injuries.”


San Diego Mystery: Why Did Homicides Plummet Last Year?

A police officer says that better community relations and “aggressive police tactics” were part of the story. Yet the number of murders went back up in January.

San Diego logged 34 killings last year, a substantial fall from the 50 the year before. That decrease matched a fall in nearly every other major crime category in 2017 as well, from assaults and rapes, to burglary and vehicle theft, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Decoding the sharp drop in homicides is tricky. Criminologists have identified a number of factors that appear to affect killings, like poverty, income inequality, unemployment and residential turnover. Gang activity, the drug trade and gun markets also fuel murders, experts say. A community’s relationship with the police and other law enforcement tactics play a role in preventing them. One researcher, after studying homicide trends in San Diego for decades, found the city’s large immigrant population may contribute to its low homicide totals, reasoning that they face job and housing pressures and don’t contribute often to crime.

“It’s really hard to say what causes a decline or an increase in murders,” San Diego police Capt. Brian Ahearn said. “Sure, there’s community-oriented policing and ShotSpotter and data-driven patrolling. But we had eight in January (2018) alone, and we were doing all those things.” Charis Kubrin, a professor of criminology at UC Irvine, said there’s never a single explanation for any trend in crime. “A lot of the action shaping homicide occurs at the neighborhood level — that’s where the real story is,” Kubrin said. San Diego police Lt. Manny Del Toro credited much of the decrease to healthy partnerships with an engaged community and aggressive police tactics designed to zero in on anyone involved in a killing — not just the murderer. “If there’s a violent crime in the area, we are flooding that area,” he said. “I mean, we are literally turning over stones. We’re stopping a lot of people. The heat is on.”


Amid Violence, Commercial Robberies Soar in Baltimore

While Baltimore’s three-year spike in violent crime draws most of the attention, business owners have suffered a similar increase in commercial robberies. Such crime has risen 88 percent in the last five years, from 560 commercial robberies in 2013 to more than 1,000 last year. Business owners are complaining of threats outside their stores: drug dealing, intimidation, stabbings and shootings.

While Baltimore’s three-year spike in violent crime draws most of the attention, business owners across the city have suffered a similar increase in commercial robberies, the Baltimore Sun reports. Such crime has risen 88 percent in the last five years, from 560 commercial robberies in 2013 to more than 1,000 last year. Business owners are complaining of threats outside their stores: drug dealing, intimidation, stabbings and shootings. They’re fighting back with security measures — guards, surveillance cameras, door buzzer systems — moving out of the city or, in some cases, shutting down.

“Our members are very concerned,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle of the Maryland Retailers Association. “Unfortunately, a lot of our members don’t relocate. It’s a massive endeavor. A lot of times they just go out of business.” Police have taken notice, and say recent arrests should make a dent. Five men have been charged in at least six robberies across the city. “It’s a small group of people responsible for these,” police spokesman T.J. Smith said. Smith said police are increasing checks on stores and are monitoring CitiWatch cameras more closely. He described an apparent robbery attempt thwarted by CitiWatch personnel in January. Two men appeared to be casing a 7-Eleven store downtown. It had been robbed days earlier, and three times last year. The CitiWatch personnel directed officers to the store. They confronted the suspects at the front door. At least one officer and one suspect fired at each other, but no one was injured. The suspects escaped.


Big-City Murders Down Modestly in 2017

The homicide total in the nation’s 50 largest cities dropped about 1-2 percent last year, depending on whether the Las Vegas mass killings are included, reports USA Today. that follows two years of increases nationally reported by the FBI.

The collective homicide toll for the 50 largest U.S. cities dipped slightly in 2017, reports USA Today. The FBI’s compilation isn’t due until later this year, but a review of police crime data shows that killings decreased in large jurisdictions compared with 2016. The modest decline comes after FBI data showed back-to-back years in which homicides rose sharply in large cities. Homicides in cities with 250,000 or more residents rose by about 15.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, and 8.2 percent from 2015 to 2016. There were 5,738 homicides in the 50 biggest cities in 2017 compared with 5,863 homicides in 2016, a 2.3 percent drop. Las Vegas  reported 141 homicides for 2017 in its official tally but did not include the Oct. 1 mass shooting at an outdoor country music concert that left 58 dead. If those deaths were included, the national big city homicide toll fell by 1.1 percent.

Even with the sharp rise in homicides in the two years prior to 2017, the national murder toll continued to hover near historic lows. The national decrease in killings in 2017 was largely driven by double-digit percentage dips in some big cities, including Chicago (14.7 percent), New York City (13.4 percent) and Houston (11 percent). Baltimore is the big city with the highest per capita murder rate in the nation, with nearly 56 murders per 100,000 people. At 343 murders in 2017, the city tallied the highest per capita rate in its history. “In New York, they concentrated on the right neighborhoods, they’ve invested well in predictive analytics and technology,” said Peter Scharf, a criminologist at the LSU School of Public Health and Justice. “The other part of what we’re seeing nationally might be a story of haves and have-nots. While some departments have made the investments, other police departments are still in the backwater of policing.”