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After declining for decades, homicides surge in cities across the country

Homicides are up by an average of 19 percent in 35 big cities this year. Chicago is the site of the most most murders -- 252 so far -- while the city of Baltimore had 45 homicides in July alone. Police chiefs say they are still trying to understand what’s causing the surge in killings. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The first half of this year has been a more violent and tragic one in many cities, leading police, community leaders, families and friends of victims to ask, what's happening?

    Across the country, scenes like these are playing out, at an escalating pace. The Major Cities Police Chiefs Association reports homicides have spiked this year after hitting 50-year lows in 2013. Members of the group voiced alarm at a Washington meeting on Monday.

  • J. THOMAS MANGER, President, Major Cities Chiefs Association:

    What we focused on was the fact that we're going to shooting scenes now where you have got more and more victims being shot, you have got more spent rounds being collected as evidence, and we're finding more and more high-capacity magazines involved in these shootings.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The association reports homicides are up an average of 19 percent in 35 big cities. Chicago has the dubious distinction of leading the list, with 252 killings, up 20 percent. But Saint Louis and Milwaukee have seen increases of 64 to 88 percent. The city of Baltimore had 45 homicides in July alone, the most since 1972.

    That followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody last April, and the resulting riots. Yesterday, Baltimore leaders announced federal agencies will embed special agents with city detectives.

  • Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings:

    REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), Maryland: The only people who are getting — making — doing pretty good now are the morticians. They're the only ones. And I say that we are a city that is better than that. And so to all of our — all those folks who think that you have got to — you get your power from carrying a gun and shooting somebody and hurting somebody, I'm begging you, put your guns down.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Meanwhile, police chiefs say they are still trying to fully understand what's behind the surge in killings.

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