U.S. Murder rate is up nearly 30 percent, Monroe is no exception

Murders across the nation are increasing and Monroe is no exception.

Monroe’s police chief says violent crimes, including murder, are trending down; if true that would make Monroe an oasis of safety as the rest of the nation struggles with an increase in murders.

Across the nation, according to the FBI, the murder rate increased nearly 30% in 2020. This marks the largest percentage increase in modern U.S. history, with almost 5,000 more murders last year than the year before, though the rate is still down from the heights reached during the violent 1990s.

What is frustrating in Monroe is that our police chief is living in an alternative world in which he keeps telling the public that Monroe is actually safer than years before because our community is less violent than ever. Those who believe that also believe Donald Trump won the Presidential election in 2020.

Nearly every week there are reports of murders or attempted murders in the media, many of them are on the pages of this newspaper. 

The FBI released its Uniform Crime Report on Monday and estimated there were 21,570 murders in the United States last year, an increase of 29.4% from 2019, with 4,901 additional murders in 2020. In raw numbers, 2020 saw more total murders than any year since 1995, when an estimated 21,610 people were murdered in the U.S., though the total U.S. population has expanded by tens of millions of people since then, meaning the overall murder rate in the U.S. is still lower.

Monroe is still listed as one of the most crime-riddled communities of its size in the nation.

Our court system is bursting at the seams. The 4th District Court has a total of eleven judges. Only four of those judges hear criminal cases in any given week, assuming there are no closures for storms or weather incidents.

That gets complicated because there are over 100 defendants in local jails waiting trials. Some of their alleged crimes were committed several years ago.

To make room, officials cut deals with violent offenders to clear the books. Murderers are given deals that allow them to plead guilty to lesser charges that result in light offenses instead of life in prison.

In our community, we have seen young people charged with murder and attempted murder while out on bail on earlier murder charges.

The judicial system is overwhelmed. Our jails are filled to capacity, and nearly every week new offenders are added to the number.

Our government leaders rightly focus their energies on infrastructure, safe water, clean streets, and balanced budgets, but the increase in crime in our community should be a problem.

The City Police has a small program that mentors the “good” kids. The Parish department also has a similar program. The programs are well-intentioned, well structured, and headed by people who are on the right track. Together, both the city and parish programs reach less than 75 youth a year.

These programs, and similar programs need expansion. Instead of 75 youth, programs that involve a thousand youth would have a better chance of addressing the problem.

Many violent crimes are committed by youth and young adults. Youth with idle time and very few mentors, burglarize homes, steal weapons that end up on the street or are used in murders. A 15-year old who murders someone will serve a juvenile-life sentence in prison and will be free to kill again at age 21.

Programs that target prevention are expensive because they focus on the root causes of criminal behavior.

The Monroe Police is one of the most efficient departments in the state. Very few murderers getaway. However, our community is not proactive we don’t invest in prevention.

What is really troubling is that murders and violence are becoming so commonplace that when we hear of shootings we ask, “Did someone die?” When the answer is “No” they put their camera phones away and shake their heads in disappointment.

We are becoming so immune to the violence that the horrors of shooting deaths no longer move us.

On top of all that, the city repeatedly questions why we are upset about the violence in our neighborhoods. The city thinks we should feel safe.

Across the nation, crime is increasing. 

We should be among those who take action to solve the problem.