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Report: Murder Rates Sharply Rising Across US

FILE - Crime-scene tape is shown as investigators work under lights at the scene of an overnight shooting.

Official figures from across the United States reveal a startling increase in the number of murders in several major cities this year -- and officials are at a loss to pinpoint the exact reasons why.

The New York Times says more than 30 cities across the nation have reported a sharp increase in homicides so far this year, compared to the same time period in 2014. The death toll in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., stands at 105 people, compared with 73 people a year ago. In nearby Baltimore, Maryland, a staggering 215 people have killed so far in 2015, far above the 138 people at the same point in 2014. Triple-digit homicide rates have also been reported in such cities as Milwaukee, Wisconsin, St. Louis, Missouri, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

The unexpected rise in homicides in 2015 after several years of steady declines has left both politicians and law enforcement officials searching for both a cause and a solution. Some say police officers have become less aggressive in the face of national protests over a series of deaths of unarmed African Americans while in police custody. But the Times reports many high-ranking police officials are seeing a growing willingness among disenchanted young men in poor neighborhoods to use violence settle ordinary disputes.

More than 70 officials from some of the largest cities in the U.S. held an emergency summit last month to address the issue.

The Times notes that the murder and overall violent crime rates remain far below the peaks seen in the late 1980 and early 90.