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Too soon to tell if rise in violent crime is a trend

Many parts of South Carolina might feel far away from big-city crime, but violent crimes have risen for the last two years across the entire country, according to FBI statistics. The swell in violence, including homicides, does not automatically indicate a crime wave. Crime rates had dropped to historic lows for several years preceding the rise, which means 2015 and 2016 might have only been bad years.

The nation's overall rate of violent crimes rose by 4.1 percent in 2016. According to FBI data, 17,250 homicides took place, an increase of 8.6 percent from 2015. Small towns were the scenes of more homicides than before. Increasing violence in rural areas still only represented 8.4 percent of the rise in crime. Large metropolitan areas accounted for 20.3 percent of the violent crime growth. Homicides in one Midwestern city alone contributed significantly to the rising numbers. Chicago reported 468 homicides in 2015 and 765 homicides in 2016.

In response to the FBI data, the Department of Justice issued a tough-on-crime message, but a criminologist and law professor questioned the ability of policing to lower the homicide rate. He noted that five neighborhoods in the Midwest accounted for approximately 10 percent of the nationwide rise in murders. He said that those neighborhoods already experienced a large police presence and high incarceration rates.

Convictions for violent crimes generally include a prison sentence, and a person accused of assault, battery or homicide could gain important insights from an attorney. An attorney could explain the meaning of the charges and their associated penalties. This information could help the defendant choose how to enter a plea.

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