Although the 30 largest cities in the United States experienced a double digit increase in their murder rate in 2016, crime nationwide remained near all-time lows. Even with that being the case, one thing remains constant and that's death, no matter the cause, leaves behind a trail of hurt and pain for the loved ones of the deceased. (2017 data from the FBI will be available late 2018)
Generally, whenever the topic of violence is mentioned in the United States, it becomes heavily politicized (stricter gun control vs right to bear arms) by both conservatives and liberals with neither side willing to give an inch.
Chicago is the first city that comes to mind whenever the subjects of violence or homicide are mentioned. Although in late July 2017, the city was on pace to have a deadlier year than 2016, when gun violence reached levels not seen in 20 years, the city saw a drop in murders in 2017. A total of 650 people were murdered in 2017, down from 771 in 2016, police said.
Although this was an improvement, the homicide total, surpassed the number of killings in New York City and Los Angeles combined.
Chicago Police Department records indicate that for the first six months of 2017, more than 90 percent of the city's homicide victims were slain by gunfire. Also, according to a recent study, (University of Chicago-January 2017) 72 percent of homicides in Los Angeles, CA in 2016 were committed with guns.
Homicide and violent crime used to be considered strictly issues for urban cities in America, but over the past decade has become a growing problem in small and mid-sized cities. Also, one growing epidemic that has become prevalent in both urban and small/mid-sized America is the increase in opioid (heroin) use.
On September 02, 2017, Josh Katz reported (NYT) the first government count of drug related overdose deaths in 2016. According to the count, drug deaths involving fentanyl (opioid) more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, accompanied by an upswing in deaths involving cocaine and methamphetamines. Deaths involving synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl, have risen to more than 20,000 from 3,000 in just three years.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid available legally with a prescription and illegally (illicitly manufactured) on the black market. Doctors typically prescribe this opioid to their chronically ill patients like those suffering from end stage cancer, as an injection, a patch, nasal spray or lollipop. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), this drug is about 50 times stronger than pure heroin and about 100 times stronger than morphine. Also, fentanyl is considered the cheapest and deadliest of drugs.
A recent study performed by Harvard University, "The Opioid Epidemic: Fixing a Broken Pharmaceutical Market", revealed that a fundamental cause of the opioid epidemic was-and continues to be-the over-prescription of these painkillers. Also, according to the study, Purdue Pharma successfully contributed to the epidemic because of the medical establishments changing views of pain management.
Although homicides appear to be declining in most American cities, there are other alarming trends. For instance, in 2017, homicides may have declined in Los Angeles, but violent crimes increased for the fourth year in a row. (E.g.: aggravated assault, rape, sexual assault and robbery)
According to the LAPD's website, gang membership in Los Angeles has continued to increase over the past five years, even though there have been periodic crime decreases. One of the major factors contributing to increased gangs, gang membership and violence has been the lucrative narcotics trade, with rival gangs vying for the greatest market share.
Although many could debate the validity of the findings by the LAPD, there has to be a degree of truth to it because the New Orleans Police Department are blaming the spike in shooting incidents in 2017 to gang violence fueled by the opioid epidemic and heroin trade.
Also, the abundance of and easy access to guns in many U.S. cities are contributing factors, as well.
As it pertains to homicides, drugs and crime across America, the fact still remains that the pharmaceutical industry and the NRA have way too much influence in Washington, DC and this needs to come to an end!
(01/01/2018 CBS News -Crimesider Staff)
(12/30/2017 Los Angeles Times- Cindy Chang)
(09/04/2017 Early Mornings with Herman Thomas-Herman Thomas)
(NYT 09/02/2017 Josh Katz)
(2017 Harvard Study Ameet Sarpatwari, Michael S.Sinha, Aaron S. Kesselheim)
(07/30/17- Early Mornings with Herman Thomas- Herman Thomas)
(07/28/2017 Chicago Tribune-Chicago Tribune staff)
(06/20/2017-CNN Nick Valencia