America’s murder rate is rising faster than any time in the past 45 years. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 15,696 murders were committed in the United States during 2015. This means the nationwide homicide count rose by 10.8 percent, the biggest year-to-year percentage jump since 1971.
While official government crime statistics for 2016 won’t be available until September, the Economist gathered data for 50 of America’s most violent cities and found that homicides 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 lion’s share of murders in the United States takes place in big cities, this indicates that the nationwide murder rate almost certainly increased substantially in 2016.
“We’ve had at least two years running now where there’s been an increase in 35 to 45 major cities,” said mcca executive director Darrel Stephens in an interview with Time magazine. “It’s a major issue and should be in the cities where it’s taking place.”
Stephens cites gang violence, drug-related violence, and the easy availability of firearms as root causes behind this spike in homicides. Meanwhile, American political commentator Heather Mac Donald, author of The War on Cops, argues that this recent surge of murders is a result of the “the Ferguson effect”—the concept that public hostility toward law enforcement in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in August 2014 has caused police officers in minority neighborhoods to back off from interacting with residents when not absolutely necessary.
Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. digs deeper and blames government entitlement programs for making his fellow black Americans in America’s inner cities dependent on the state, fueling a breakdown of nuclear families that exacerbates criminal behavior. While 1 in 3 American children are 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 such fatherless homes.
The foundation of any stable society—the family—is under attack in America. As long as this is true, American society will continue to produce criminals at a record rate. One of the reasons that violent crime has been decreasing for the past quarter century is because America’s prison population has quintupled since 1970. Almost 700 out of every 100,000 Americans sit in the nation’s prisons and jails—higher 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 this problem. ▪