Fueled by gun violence, cities across the country are breaking all-time homicide records this year

US cities experienced more than 280 murders in the first three months of 2019, according to city mayors and police chiefs from around the country

Fueled by gun violence, cities across the country are breaking all-time homicide records this year

All-time high: 280 killings in the first three months of 2019

As summer approaches, US cities across the country have broken all-time homicide records this year, according to the country’s mayors and police chiefs.

Nearly 280 people were killed in the first three months of 2019 in cities stretching from Austin to Chicago, Boston to Philadelphia.

“I’m not shocked by the number,” Brian Ballard, the police chief in Savannah, Georgia, said about the 300 killings in the first quarter of this year.

Atlanta and Cleveland have seen the most homicides so far this year, with 21 and 19, respectively. Cities with thousands of murders each year – New Orleans, New York, Oakland and Detroit – are still struggling to keep up with those numbers.

Cities across the US and Canada have struggled to meet the January and February homicide rate, but when the year ends, they will likely only manage about 35 to 40 killings, said William Callahan, the police chief in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “We are way, way behind the plan,” he said.

The spike in homicides in recent months has taken many by surprise. The homicide rate in Chicago dropped in January to 9.7 killings per 100,000 residents – the lowest level since 1968. But when January ended, the city saw 114 people killed.

It’s not that there aren’t some high-profile killings in Chicago – in late February, police said they have found the remains of a woman known as the “haunted woman” of Rogers Park, one of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods. The remains were identified as Ofelia Garcia, 25, who had disappeared at the beginning of 2017, but police found that she had not been murdered.

Despite those killings, there was little outcry in Chicago for stricter gun control or stricter policing. Police officials have described the uptick in killings as the result of gang violence, arguing it doesn’t amount to an epidemic of crime.

“They aren’t getting stabbed over $5 or some weed,” said Javier Ortiz, a police officer in Oakland, California. “These people are seeking control over territory, over each other and over the drug industry.”

Naples police said they have been a major player in that war. “We have been calling all the big guns,” said Luigi Metoyer, the police chief. “But we’re dealing with really powerful syndicates.”

Metoyer said he wanted to roll out something bold, and after some discussion he realized he wanted to move the needle in Naples.

It was a decision that was shared by the city manager, whom Metoyer declined to name, but he said the police chief had told him: “I have 100 cops, and I want them to arrest 100 guys.”

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