Several American cities that have seen sharp upticks in homicides so far this year.
According to a report by USA Today, the number of murders rose by one-third or more so far this year compared to the same period last year in Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. Chicago saw a nearly 20 percent increase in homicides.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn blamed what he called Wisconsin’s “absurdly weak” gun laws for his city’s high rates of violence. Carrying a concealed weapon without a state-issued concealed carry license amounts only to a misdemeanor in the state.
He also noted that a culture of violence has become so pervasive that few bother to report gunshots. Residents only call in one in five of the gunshots detected by sensors.
The rise may seem greater than it is because of a years-long decline in homicide. Last year, for instance, Milwaukee had a record low number of homicides. To be sure, however, the overall number has surged from 41 homicides in the first six months of last year to 84 so far this year.
Other cities have seen a similarly dramatic increase. With 45 people killed in Baltimore last month, July was the deadliest month the city had seen in the past 45 years. That figure is even more staggering considering that the city was almost one-third more populous at the time in the early 1970s.
The city has seen a measurable increase in violence since April when 25-year-old Freddie Gray was killed while in Baltimore Police custody. Some attribute the spike in crime — and the decline in arrests — to Gray’s death.
“The cops I’ve spoken to say it’s different now,” Peter Moskos professor of criminal justice and former Baltimore City police officer said. “Cops are saying, If we’re going to get in trouble for well-intentioned mistakes, then f — it, I’m not working.”
Experts like Moskos believe that Baltimore police took a more defensive stance after six of their own were charged for their involvement in Gray’s arrest. He said that a heightened level of informal oversight from residents may also have slowed down law enforcement efforts.
Among the dozens killed in the city last month is Donte Dixon Jr., or G-Rock. The popular local rapper died in the hospital after he was shot on Thursday. Although Dixon didn’t perform outside of Baltimore, his videos raked up tens of thousands of views on YouTube.
“He was about to get a record deal, then this happened,” James Jones, a friend of Dixon’s, told the Baltimore Sun. “We grew up in the city. Seeing everybody die, it’s been crazy. Just witnessing what’s going on. We were trying to get out of there. That was our goal.”