Christian Science Monitor-4 hours ago
The FBI has used surveillance planes in some 30 US cities during a recent 30-day period. Most of the aircraft are registered to a 'Robert Lindley ...
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Fusion-12 hours ago
Fusion-12 hours ago
FBI behind mysterious surveillance aircraft over US cities
Florida Times-Union-17 hours ago
Florida Times-Union-17 hours ago
....AP journalists......................noticed suspicious looking small planes circling in slow, counterclockwise circles over US cities, and in particular over Baltimore during last month’s civil unrest. They began tracing tail numbers, identifying antennas and other equipment on the planes, and uncovering a trail of fake companies used to hide the government origin of the flights.
(CNN)After decades of a downward trend in crime, residents in some large U.S. cities wonder if a reversal is coming.
If you live in Baltimore, you know that May, with 43 homicides, was the deadliest month since 1972. Or if you are a Houstonian, you've probably heard that murders were up 45% through April compared to the same period in 2014.
The latest statistics in Milwaukee show a 103% spike in murders year-to-date compared with a year ago.
The spike in killings in these major cities would be troubling in itself at any time, but it is especially troubling now, when policing practices, race and social policies are regularly in the news.
The video of a gunman brazenly opening fire on another man in the Bronx in May, or another gunman caught on camera firing across the street at someone in Harlem in April, spread so swiftly online that it is fair to ask if a crime wave is on the horizon.
A review of murder statistics in major U.S. cities so far this year shows an unclear picture.
While Baltimore and Houston appear to be experiencing a crime wave, comparable cities like Dallas and Los Angeles are trending in the opposite direction.
In short, it is too early to draw conclusions of a shift in the trend for violent crime.
How telling is Baltimore's deadly month of May?
Of the 119 homicides recorded in Baltimore this year, more than one-third happened in May.
As the Baltimore Sun put it in an editorial, "We don't think it is at all unreasonable to start asking questions about leadership in a city that, over the last month, was less safe by some measures than it has been at any point in recorded history."
Speaking at an event remembering a toddler who was killed by a stray bullet last year, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said last month that it is a "very, very painful time in our city."
On the other extreme is Los Angeles. Because of its large population, the city notches one of the nation's highest numbers of murders, but the trend has been shrinking violent crime.
CNN requested murder statistics for 2015 from a number of large U.S. cities. Some departments cooperated right away, while others asked for more time or formal open records requests. Among the departments that released statistics, the numbers reflected different periods. Some cities had murder statistics through May, others just through April.
For the cities where crime does appear to be trending upward, how can one know if it is a blip or a historic reversal?
"It's a little bit like the stock market. These statistics go up and down," said Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. "It's like asking why did the stock market go up 75 points today."
But numbers have the power to sway, and many of these figures are being used already to bolster arguments for stronger police enforcement or a reformed police presence.
Report: Homicides up 180 percent in Milwaukee
Report: Homicides up 180 percent in Milwaukee 01:51
Explaining the downward trend
As policing has changed over the years, the question of what the nationwide decreases in violent crime means has been debated.
There is general agreement that larger police departments -- and more officers in the streets -- has had a positive effect on lowering crime, Pollack said.
The quality of policing has also improved over the past 20 years and the departments are better managed, he said.
Other factors are harder to quantify.
The end of the crack epidemic is believed to have contributed to the decrease in violent crime, as have other reasons ranging from the legalization of abortion to changes in the illegal drug market.
This year "may not be shaping up to be a terrific year in many cities, and it may be part of a larger pattern, but we really don't know that," Pollack said.
So what's the debate right now?
One obvious difference between last year and this year is the tensions between police officers and certain communities.
The high-profile instances of police officers killing unarmed black men stirred outrage and protests.
There is an understanding that somehow things have changed -- or must change -- in a post-Michael Brown, post-Freddie Gray, post-Eric Garner America.
The debate on whether police reform is needed or whether more aggressive policing is necessary is often political. The early 2015 murder statistics are providing evidence for both sides.
"If there's a national mood that starts to see police as the bad guys, the police as the enemy responsible for these problems, it makes it a hell of a lot harder to police," said Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer and professor of policing. "One way that cops deal with that is that they just stop policing those people."
A former New York Police Department officer, Bill Stanton, agreed that an uptick in crime can be linked to police being less assertive.
"When you take away police pride and you take away giving them the benefit of the doubt ... and you're going to call them racist and you're going to prosecute them for doing nothing wrong," Stanton said, "then what happens is they're going to roll back. They're not going to go that extra mile."
CNN Political Analyst Van Jones said tying the protests over the deaths of unarmed black men to increases in crime is disingenuous.
"Police unions are trying to link any crime to First Amendment protests and cherry-picking data," he told CNN's Erin Burnett.
"This is all part of an attempt to tell black people that if we exercise our First Amendment rights, we are somehow now responsible for people who engage in crime," he said. "Why should the black community have to choose between police abuse and police neglect? That's a false choice."