- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Major U.S. cities reported 4.4 percent fewer homicides so far this year, the Brennan Center for Justice says in a new report being released Wednesday that appears to belie fears of a national crime wave.

Drops in homicides in New York, Los Angeles and Houston led the way, more than compensating for increases in Baltimore, Columbus, Ohio, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Of the 30 largest U.S. cities, the Brennan report found that 15 cities saw their homicide numbers decline, while 13 saw an increase.

The findings come as law enforcement leaders and criminologists have struggled to discern whether violent crime increases reported over the last two years are an anomaly or the reversal of a decades-long crime decline. The FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report recorded increases in violent crime and homicides in both 2015 and 2016.

Traveling to U.S. attorney’s offices around the country this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly highlighted the FBI’s crime statistics as he spoke about new initiatives underway to stem the rising tide.

“I strongly believe that these trends are not a blip or an anomaly,” Mr. Sessions said Tuesday, speaking at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. “I will not accept rising crime. Plain and simple, we will not allow the progress made by our women and men in blue over the past two decades to simply slip through our fingers now.”

The Brennan Center report, which looked at stats through Dec. 19, said New York saw a 16 percent decrease to 281 homicides; Los Angeles’s 274 killings equaled 7 percent fewer homicides; and Houston saw a 27 percent decline to 220 homicides.

But Baltimore, which has suffered from a swell of violence over the last few years, continued to see troubling signs. The 353 homicides recorded there through mid-December were an 11 percent increase over 2016. In Charlotte, homicides are up by 54 percent, with 106 slayings recorded. In Columbus, homicides jumped by 38 percent to 126 killings.

The fact that the murder rate in some cities remains above 2015 levels is “demonstrating a need for evidence-based solutions to violent crime in these areas,” the report states.

Chicago recorded the most homicides of any of the 30 cities, with 675 deaths reported through Dec. 12. But the city saw a 12 percent reduction in homicides this year.

“One note of hope in all this is cities that have had some of the most significant problems are going down,” said Ames Grawert, one of the report’s authors.

Increases in homicides don’t necessarily mean an increase in overall crime.

Baltimore was projected to see a 12.5 percent uptick in violent crime this year, but in Columbus, violent crime was projected to decrease by 11.8 percent, the Brennan Center said.

The increases in some cities but not others “suggest a need to better understand how and why murder is increasing in some cities,” the report states.

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