WASHINGTON - Police chiefs from big cities in the United States met Monday to discuss how to deal with a dangerous spike in violent crime, especially gun shootings.
The meeting in Washington of the Major Cities Chiefs Association was organized to help cities compare examples of gun violence and come up with solutions.
"We came together to help identify ways to interrupt this violent trend and ensure that our cities continue to thrive," said the association's president, Tom Manger. According to an association survey, homicides in 35 big U.S. cities are up 19 percent this year on average. Sixty-two percent of cities reported increases in non-fatal shootings.
Chief Sees ‘Urgency’
Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said there was an "urgency" to the summit. She attributed the violent crime spike in the U.S. capital to a rising use of synthetic drugs and offenses by repeat gun offenders.
"We knew we had to walk out of here with some immediate solutions that can be implemented, thinking that maybe it was a bunch of local solutions," she said. "But what it appears is that there needs to be some [solutions] nationwide. Not tactics, strategies, right? So there's got to be some immediate strategy implementation and some long-term strategy implementation."
The meeting followed a series of deadly months in big U.S. cities such as Washington, Baltimore and Chicago.
Washington has recorded 87 homicides this year, up from 69 in the same period last year. Baltimore had 45 homicides in July, the highest monthly total since 1972, and recorded 42 killings when its homicide rate began to skyrocket in May. The May violence came after Baltimore was devastated by rioting in April following the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody.
In the Midwest, more than 1,600 people have been shot in Chicago since the beginning of this year, about 100 more than for the same period in 2014. Milwaukee posted 47 homicides in the first half of this year, more than double the number for the same period in 2014.
The meeting took place as Baltimore police and civil leaders launched a partnership with five federal agencies that will embed their special agents with city homicide detectives. The move is aimed at curtailing the upsurge in murders and other violent crime in the city.
The partnership, called the Baltimore Federal Homicide Task Force, calls for embedding two special agents from each of the crime-fighting federal agencies on the streets with homicide detectives for the next 60 days. The agencies are the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"We have doubled down on our commitment to focus on repeat offenders, and that's what we continue to do in a more collaborative and intentional way," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in announcing the initiative. "We are increasing the resources, we are increasing the collaboration and increasing the partnership at all levels. This is our next step in our all-hands-on-deck approach to decreasing violence."