Association Warns of Rising Crime in Big Cities
The Major Cities Chiefs Association, an organization for police professionals in some of North America's largest metropolitan areas, has found that many cities have seen a rise in crime thus far this year—something highlighted by a violent weekend in the Chicago area.
It’s not just Chicago, though the recent tragedies in the region (as The New York Times reported last week, six people died and 64 were injured due to violence in the Windy City over Memorial Day weekend alone) certainly underline the point: Violence in large cities is becoming a major problem again.
One association that has been looking closely at this issue is the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), a group that represents top law enforcement officials in 50 major cities in the U.S., and another seven in Canada. The group, spurred by the rise in violent crime around the country in recent years, became more vigilant in analyzing such activity about a year ago.
The results are troubling: Crime rose in 2015 compared to 2014, and the first quarter of 2016 shows that crime is rising in large cities even compared to 2015’s surging numbers.
If there’s some solace to be taken from this news, MCCA Executive Director Darrel Stephens, a former police chief in Charlotte, said that the situation isn’t nearly as dire as it once was.
“If you put it in perspective, it’s much, much lower than what we experienced in the ’90s,” Stephens noted in an interview with The Washington Post. “But still, for me and others, the fact that we’ve had these spikes in different cities is not something that should be ignored. And I can tell you that the police are not ignoring it in places that are experiencing this.”
In comments to The Associated Press, FBI Director James Comey noted that the nature of the uptick isn’t reassuring to law enforcement officials.
“Sometimes people say to me, well, the increases are off of historic lows. How does that many of us feel any better?” Comey said. “A whole lot more people are dying this year than last year, and last year than the year before. And I don’t know why for sure.”
Other issues of concern: Crime upticks affect only specific neighborhoods in cities such as Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, and police officers are using a lighter touch in fighting crime, an approach known as the “Ferguson effect,” in reference to the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown and the ensuing public outcry.
Stephens, in comments to the Post last month, noted that the concerns were apparent but emphasized that officers on the ground were doing their best to protect the public in a tough situation.
“Police, they receive a lot of negative feedback and the sense that all of these problems that we’re encountering are the fault of the police,” Stephens told the newspaper. “And they don’t feel good about it, but that doesn’t stop them from doing their work.”