Violent crime rises amid battle over 'Ferguson effect'

Violent crime rises amid battle over 'Ferguson effect'
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Violent crime rose slightly in the United States during the first six months of 2015, the FBI reported on Tuesday. 

Compared to the first half of 2014, the U.S. saw a 1.7 percent total increase in rapes, murders, aggravated assaults and robberies, with the greatest increase coming in the western quadrant of the country. That quadrant includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.   

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Murder increased nationwide at an even higher rate of 6.2 percent, the bureau said.

The tally is likely to be cited by lawmakers and other public officials who say say the increasing public focus on police violence has caused officers to become more passive on the job.

The debate over the “Ferguson effect” has raged since the police killings of several young African-American men and boys, including 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

FBI Director James Comey is one believer in the phenomenon. “A chill wind” has blown through law enforcement, he has said, which “is surely changing behavior” and causing officers to be less aggressive.

President Obama has publicly been at odds with the FBI chief over the issue.

“We do have to stick with the facts,” Obama said last year. “What we can't do is cherry-pick data or use anecdotal evidence to drive policy or to feed political agendas.” 

The increase in violent crime was not uniform across the country.

The Northeast actually saw a slight decrease in the category early last year, the FBI said. Tiny decreases were also noted in small cities under 100,000 people and in mid-size cities with a population from 500,000 to 1 million residents.

While violent crime may have been on the rise, the number of property crimes in the U.S. decreased from January to June of 2015.