WASHINGTON — A spike in murders in many cities is claiming a startling number of victims with criminal records, police say, suggesting that drug and gang wars are behind the escalating violence.
In Baltimore, about 91% of murder victims this year had criminal records, up from 74% a decade ago, police reported.
Philadelphia police Capt. Ben Naish says the Baltimore numbers are “shocking.” Philadelphia also has seen the number of victims with criminal pasts inch up — to 75% this year from 71% in 2005.
In Milwaukee, local leaders created the homicide commission after a spike in violence led to a 39% increase in murders in 2005. The group compiled statistics on victims’ criminal histories for the first time and found that 77% of homicide victims in the past two years had an average of nearly 12 arrests.
In Newark, where three young friends with no apparent links to crime were executed Aug. 4, roughly 85% of victims killed in the first six months of this year had criminal records, on par with the percentage in 2005 but up from 81% last year, police statistics show.
David Kennedy, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says the rise in criminals killing criminals has escaped policymakers’ attention.
“The notion that these (murders) are random bolts of lightning, which is the commonly held image, is not the reality,” says Kennedy, who has examined the backgrounds of murder suspects and victims in multiple U.S. cities. “It happens, but it doesn’t happen often.”
The slaying of truly innocent victims is so unusual in Baltimore that the chief prosecutor says the city has become dangerously numb to the carnage. “If we don’t put human faces on the victims, we will become desensitized,” State Attorney Patricia Jessamy says.
To late for this writer – these thugs’ mothers may miss them, but I won’t.