NY Times--same old
The NY Times leads with "Violent Crime Rising Sharply in Some Cities".
Datelined Milwaukee, it begins "One woman here killed a friend after they argued over a brown silk dress. A man killed a neighbor whose 10-year-old son had mistakenly used his dish soap." People are killing each other over nasty looks and minor issues, and of course "more weapons are on the streets, giving people a way to act on their anger." A graphic on the side -- "an uptick in murders" looks like a 25% jump upwards.
Well, preliminary FBI data for the first half of 2005 (released last month, and the latest available) indicates that the homicide count did increase, but hardly by a great amount -- 2.1% nationwide. Given that the population also increased, the rate increase would have been less. Violent crime overall fell by 0.5%. Hardly a spiralling rate of crime.
Their charting of rates over time shows that it isn't that 2005 was exceptionally bad, but that 2004 was exceptionally good. Homicide rates had steeply fallen in the 1990s (funny how we rarely heard that in the media) and after 2000 edged upward a bit, up 1-2% a year in 2002 and 2003. Then in 2004 it dropped again, by 5.7%. 2005's increase of 2.1% came against that background -- still leaving the rate lower than in the rest of the decade.
I was curious about Milwaukee, the focus of the article, and so checked out past homicide counts for that city. The article states that those "jumped from 88 in 2004 to 122 last year." Again, it's a matter of 2004 being exceptionally low (the 2005 count is actually lower than that for four years ago):
2001: 127 homicides
I realize that fear sells newspapers, but you'd think they'd find some subject that they can legitimately scare people with, rather than going this far to create a boogeyman....