America’s Murder Rate

From the April 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

America’s murder rate is rising faster than at any time in the past 45 years. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, 15,696 murders were committed during 2015. This means the nationwide homicide count rose by 10.8 percent, the biggest year-to-year percentage jump since 1971.

For 2016, the Economist gathered data for 50 of America’s most violent cities and found that homicide rates rose in 34 of them. These 50 metropolitan areas contain 15 percent of the country’s population, yet account for 36 percent of the country’s murder victims. The Major Cities Chiefs Association (mcca) estimated that the homicide count increased by double-digit percentages in 61 American cities last year. Since the majority of murders in America take place in big cities, this indicates that the nationwide murder rate almost certainly increased substantially again last year.

“We’ve had at least two years running now where there’s been an increase in 35 to 45 major cities,” mcca executive director Darrel Stephens told Time magazine. “It’s a major issue and should be in the cities where it’s taking place” (January 30).

Total violent crime—including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault—increased from 1,153,022 reported incidents in 2014 to 1,197,704 reported incidents in 2015, the biggest spike since 1992.

Stephens cited gang violence, drug-related violence and the easy availability of firearms as root causes behind the spike in homicides. Meanwhile, American political commentator Heather MacDonald, author of The War on Cops, argues that this recent surge of murders is a result of the “Ferguson effect”—police officers in minority neighborhoods backing off from interacting with residents when not absolutely necessary because of public hostility in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.

Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. digs deeper and blames government entitlement programs for making his fellow black Americans in inner cities dependent on the state, fueling a breakdown of nuclear families that exacerbates criminal behavior. While 1 in 3 American children is raised without a father, this figure goes up to approximately 1 in 2 or more in some big cities. Approximately 85 percent of youths in prison come from fatherless homes.

The family, the foundation of any stable society, is under attack in America. As long as this continues, American society will continue to produce criminals at a record rate. One reason violent crime had been decreasing until just recently is that America’s prison population has quintupled since 1970. Almost 700 out of every 100,000 Americans sit in the nation’s prisons and jails—a higher rate than any other country in the world.

President Donald Trump has promised to “make America safe again” by declaring a federal war on crime. Until the root cause behind America’s crime epidemic is fixed, however, the nation will continue to struggle with violence. Five months before the United States Constitution was signed, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” When people are out of control, when the sense of personal responsibility and morality degenerates, freedom diminishes, and people are forced to either live in a police state or in anarchy.