Which is what happens when the nation embarks on a program of reducing prisons, early releases of criminals, and confusion around what public safety really means, as this article from the Wall Street Journal reports.
Murders rose 6.2% in the first half of 2015, according to preliminary crime data released Tuesday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, figures that are likely to further fuel the current political debates about crime, policing and sentencing.
Violent crime overall increased 1.7%, the FBI found, while property crimes decreased 4.2%, compared with the first six months of 2014. Police chiefs from around the country had warned about an apparent surge in recent months.
The rise in murders is largely due to increases in two parts of the country: the Midwest, which saw a 9.9% rise, and the South, which saw an 8.6% rise. The Northeast and West saw more modest rises of 1.3% and 1.6%, respectively.
Rising crime has been a hotly debated topic over the past year in law-enforcement circles. FBI Director James Comey has suggested the increase may be partly due to what police officials call the “Ferguson effect’’—a greater reluctance on the part of police officers to engage with suspects for fear of being criticized for alleged abuse or discrimination.
The ostensible phenomenon is named after Ferguson, Mo., where public protests and looting followed the killing of an unarmed black 18-year-old in August 2014. “Something deeply disturbing is happening in places across America,’’ Mr. Comey said in October. “Far more people are being killed in many American cities, many of them people of color, and it’s not the cops doing the killing.’’
The director blamed a “chill wind’’ blowing through law enforcement in cities like Sacramento, Calif., and Washington, D.C. “In today’s YouTube world,’’ Mr. Comey asked, “are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime?”
White House officials and civil rights groups have dismissed speculation about such an effect as unfounded. Others have suggested that the heroin trade is fueling more crime, or that crime rates had gotten so low they were bound to bounce back up at some point.
Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said “it is too early to draw any long-term conclusions’’ from the data, and noted the overall violent crime rate remains historically low.
“The Justice Department is acutely focused on the increases being experienced in some communities of the country. This is why several months ago the department intensified its efforts to identify and combat violent crime,’’ Mr. Rodenbush said.
According to the preliminary figures compiled for the first six months of 2015, the number of aggravated assaults increased 2.3% and the number of rapes under a previous definition increased 9.6%, while rapes under a revised definition increased 1.1%.
Senior FBI officials say they are pushing to modernize their crime-reporting system to give officials something closer to complete real-time data. The current data have been criticized by law-enforcement officials and academics as slow, with significant gaps that prevent policy makers from making decisions quickly to counter changes in crime patterns.
Whatever the causes of rising violent crime, many law-enforcement officials are concerned 2015 may herald the end of more than two decades of falling crime rates. That could affect the continuing debates in Congress to scale back federal prison sentences, particularly for nonviolent drug offenders, something that has drawn growing bipartisan support.