Homicides nationwide surged by 10.8 percent from 2014 to 2015, an increase of nearly 1,600, according to a new report from the federal government.
It was the biggest single-year increase in four decades, the report said.
Analysts have attributed the surge to the “Ferguson effect,” the reluctance of police officers to confront black citizens suspected of criminal behavior in the aftermath of the mid-2014 shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, of black teen Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson was investigated several times but never charged because of evidence that Brown was charging at him when he was shot.
Since the Ferguson incident, President Obama has repeatedly charged that law-enforcement institutional racism among law enforcement officers across the United States.
The FBI, in a statement, said there was a 3.9 percent increase in the estimated number of violent crimes overall and a 2.6 percent drop in property crimes from 2014 to 2015.
The bureau said there were 1,197,704 violent crimes and 15,696 murders in 2015.
The FBI also said there were 90,185 rapes and 327,374 robberies.
Firearms were used in 71.5 percent of the murders.
FBI chief Jim Comey said the statistics need to be monitored more closely.
“We need more transparency and accountability in law enforcement. We also need better, more informed conversations about crime and policing in this country,” he said.
“To get there, we are improving the way this nation collects, analyzes, and uses crime statistics and data about law enforcement’s use of force,” he continued. “Information that is accurate, reliable, complete, and timely will help all of us learn where we have problems and how to get better.
“Key elements of this are our shift to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which will occur no later than 2021 (we hope sooner), and our first-ever use-of-force database. Those will give us a more complete, richer picture of crime in our communities, and a national and detailed picture of the ways we in law enforcement are using force.
“With indispensable support from our colleagues at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, all of us will be better able to talk in an informed way about thigns that matter tremendously.”
The data from 2015 show there were 372 violent criminal offenses per 100,000 Americans and 2,487 property offenses.
The London Guardian reported, “There is no consensus yet on what factors might be driving a sharp increase in murders alone, but crime has become a politically charged election issue, and the uptick will probably figure in Monday’s presidential debate.”
The report continued: “In St. Louis, which already had one of the highest murder rates in the U.S., murders increased again last year. Last year, 143 of the city’s murder victims were black men and boys killed with guns, according to data from the police department. Local residents were not optimistic that a debate over a national murder increase would make them safer.”
Jeffrey Boyd, a St. Louis city official, told the agency: “How do we use that data to elevate the consciousness of our community? How do we use that data to provide the opportunity for people to get meaningful jobs, with livable wages?”
The number of homicides still remained below the 1980s-1990s crime wave that saw a peak of about 25,000 deaths a year.
But some already are attributing the increase to race.
Wealthy white Americans whose votes help determine crime policy “don’t tend to be those who feel the costs,” claimed John Pfaff, a Fordham University law professor, in the report.
The report defended Obama’s administration, explaining: “In general, the president and the federal government have very little power to determine the country’s response to crime and violence. The country has 18,000 local law enforcement agencies of different kinds, including more than 12,000 local police departments, which are largely independent from federal control.”
The report also said victims of property crimes lost $14.3 billion.
Last year there were reports from 13,160 different agencies around the nation.
NPR said, “Seven cities are largely responsible for the increase in murders last year: Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Washington, D.C.”
NPR said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, speaking in Arkansas on Monday at a meeting on targeting trouble in urban centers, said violence “tears at the fabric of our common life.”
Lynch added that any such increase “is of the deepest concern … to the entire Department of Justice.”
NPR noted the issue of law and order “has been a persistent theme in this year’s presidential race, as Republican candidate Donald Trump has urged the need to restore order to U.S. cities, and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has emphasized the need for partnerships between law enforcement and communities of color.”