ST. LOUIS — Homicides are up more than 25 percent in St. Louis this year, and the city is already poised to surpass the total number of killings for all of 2013.
Four more deaths in the next two months would put the number of slayings above last year's total of 120 homicides, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1uKuMcy). From Jan. 1 of this year through Wednesday, 117 people have been killed in St. Louis. Ninety-one homicides were reported in about the same time frame last year.
University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Rick Rosenfeld said it's unclear why the number has gone up, since an increase in homicides usually coincides with an uptick in gun crimes and robberies. Those two categories have been down for much of the year.
But overall crime rates are now increasing, despite showing steady declines through August, according to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson.
In the first three weeks of October, there were 111 gun crimes, where someone is shot or shot at, double the amount in the same time period last year, he said. More than 265 crimes were reported in the categories of homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft.
"What's the only thing that's changed since the middle of August?" Dotson said. He said one answer could be the protests that followed the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 by a Ferguson police officer.
"I believe there is some segment of the community that feels empowered by what's going on," Dotson said.
He said other factors, including the St. Louis Police Department's patrols, staffing and strategies, have stayed constant all year.
"More people are committing crimes (in St. Louis)," Dotson said. "Something is different."
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com