Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Spike in Violent Crime Spreads to L.A., but Still No Alarm Bells

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Spike in Violent Crime Spreads to L.A., but Still No Alarm Bells

Article excerpt

Like Baltimore and Chicago and several other American cities, Los Angeles is grappling with a rise in crime.

The spike is especially troubling because it comes after 12 years of decline. So far, 2015 has shown an uptick in everything from domestic violence to homicide, with 39 people killed in August, the worst tally for that month since 2009.

But for all the heartache this surge in violence has brought to communities, both the Los Angeles Police Department as well as national criminologists caution against drawing easy conclusions as to its cause.

"It's multifaceted," says Tod Burke, a criminologist at Radford University in Virginia. "You can't point to just one thing," he says.

"Less than one year does not make a trend," he adds. "It does raise the question of what is going on right now, however."

LAPD officials say much of the recent violence is gang-related - echoing comments from other parts of the country. And some experts point to the cascading consequences of mass incarceration, with California state laws first dramatically expanding prison populations and now significantly reducing them.

But more broadly, there is a growing sense among some criminologists that gains from the much-lauded drop in crime since the 1990s may not have been shared equally among communities - and that this year's jump in crime may stem from increased pressure arising from that inequality.

"The drop in violent crime rates we've heard so much about has not been evenly distributed across the population. This is a low- crime era for well-to-do white people, but it remains an era of great personal risk for poor people in general, and poor African- Americans in particular," says Joel Jacobson, a former assistant attorney general in New Mexico, in an e-mail. "The risk faced by people in disadvantaged groups has not actually changed so much since the 1990s - it's just that it only becomes a subject of public attention when it becomes concentrated in an attention-getting way, or the police chief draws attention to it with a colorful comment. …

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