WASHINGTON Violent crime in certain big U.S. cities in 2015 likely increased over 2014, although the overall crime rate has remained far below peak levels of the early 1990s, experts said, in advance of the FBI’s annual crime report to be released later on Monday.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s report was expected to show a one-year increase in homicides and other violent crimes in cities including Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., based on already published crime statistics.
Coming on the day of the first presidential campaign debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the report could “be turned into political football,” said Robert Smith, a research fellow at Harvard Law School, in a teleconference on Friday with other crime experts.
A rise in violent crime in U.S. cities since 2014 has already been revealed in preliminary 2015 figures released by the FBI in January.
A recent U.S. Justice Department-funded study examined the nation’s 56 largest cities and found 16.8 percent more murders last year over 2014.
Trump last week praised aggressive policing tactics, including the “stop-and-frisk” approach.
Clinton has pushed for stricter gun control to help curb violence and has called for the development of national guidelines on the use of force by police officers.
FBI Director James Comey warned last year that violent crime in the United States might rise because increased scrutiny of policing tactics had created a “chill wind” that discouraged police officers from aggressively fighting crime.
Increased crime has been concentrated in segregated and impoverished neighborhoods of big cities. Experts said in such areas crime can best be fought through better community policing and alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent crime.
“We’re just beginning to see a shift in mentality in law enforcement from a warrior mentality … to a guardian mentality,” said Carter Stewart, a former prosecutor for the Southern District of Ohio, on the teleconference. “I don’t want us as a country to go backwards.”
In Chicago, 54 more people were murdered in 2015 than the year before, a 13 percent jump in the city’s murder rate, according to an April study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Matthew Lewis)