To see recent spike in murders in big cities, you have to see the decline before that

New data suggests murders are up in some major American cities. Yet, to see this spike, you have to acknowledge the steady decline in previous years:

Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., among others, have all seen significant increases in their murder rates through the first half of 2015.

Homicides in St. Louis, for example, are up almost 60% from last year while robberies are up 40%. In Washington, D.C., 73 people have been killed so far this year, up from 62 last year, an 18% jump. In Milwaukee, murders have doubled since last year, while in nearby Chicago homicides have jumped almost 20%…

Criminologists warn that the recent spikes could merely be an anomaly, a sort of reversion to the mean after years of declining crime rates. But there could be something else going on, what some officials have called a “Ferguson effect,” in which criminals who are angry over police-involved shootings like that of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer in August, have felt emboldened to commit increased acts of violence.

It is hard to have it both ways by complaining about high crime rates before this year and then now complaining about a spike. Crime rates were down for nearly two decades in most major cities prior to this year. Yet, this wasn’t the perception. Thus, we might see this spike as “Crime rates were high and now they are even higher!” or it could be “Crime rates declined for a long period and now this is a spike.” These are two different stories.

Two other quick thoughts:

1. This story is unclear about whether this is true across the board in major American cities or just in the places cited here.

2. It is hard to know what this spike is about as it is happening. What will happen in a few months or in the next few years?

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