The nationwide murder rate rose in 2016, mostly because of a rise in murders in larger U.S. cities, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law predicted a near 8 percent increase in the nationwide murder rate for 2016, based on preliminary FBI data from the first half of last year.
The reason for the uptick in the murder rate is in large part because of Baltimore, Chicago and Houston, which together "account for around half of the increase in murder in major cities between 2014 and 2016."
Chicago alone "was responsible for 43.7 percent of the rise in urban murders in 2016," the report said. That uptick is "indicative of localized problems in some cities," it said.
In the 30 largest U.S. cities, the murder rate increased by roughly 14 percent from 2015 to 2016. However, the report cautions against any misinterpretation that there is a new "national crime wave."
"Since 2014, some cities have seen increases in murder, causing increases in national rates of murder and violence. These spikes in urban violence are a serious cause for concern," the study said. "But history shows these trends do not necessarily signal the start of a new nationwide crime wave, and even with these increases, crime and murder rates remain near historic lows. There is no evidence of a national crime wave."
In 2015, the overall crime rate fell for the 14th year in a row, says the Brennan Center, and preliminary data shows that in 2016 it will rise less than 1 percent.
"Today's crime rate is less than half of what it was in 1991," said the report, noting that violent crime has also fallen since it peaked in 1991.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has urged a renewed focus in public safety and fighting an uptick in murders and violent crime.
"At this point in history, I sense we could be at a pivotal time," Sessions said in his first major speech as the nation's top law enforcement officer in February. "If we take the right actions now, affirm good, effective, proven law enforcement techniques, we can avoid another surge in crime rates in America."
Sessions in charge of carrying out one of the executive orders signed by President Trump on the day of his swearing-in as attorney general. One of the orders, aimed at "reduc[ing] crime and restor[ing] public safety," directs Sessions to establish a new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety.