ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The national homicide rate is up again. The FBI just released its data from last year, and it shows that homicides rose 8 percent. And that's after an 11 percent jump the year before. NPR's law enforcement correspondent Martin Kaste has details.
MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: The national homicide rate is probably one of the more politicized statistics released by the government. And careful analysts usually caution against reading too much into just one year's numbers. But Jeff Asher says this is starting to look like a trend.
JEFF ASHER: It's clear that it was not a one- or two-city blip.
KASTE: Asher's a crime statistics analyst based in New Orleans. He's still going through these new numbers released for 2016.
ASHER: The majority of cities saw murder rise over the last two years. That doesn't mean that they'll necessarily see that going forward, but it's certainly a concerning issue that that many cities - not just Chicago, not just Baltimore, not just St. Louis - but a wide swath of American cities saw murder rise.
KASTE: During the campaign, President Trump painted a picture of out-of-control violent crime which he blamed on public disrespect for police. And in a statement today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions also warned against, quote, "the rising tide of violent crime." Lori Lightfoot is a Chicago attorney who's involved in the effort to reform the police department there, and she says the administration seems to be using these statistics to discredit police reform.
LORI LIGHTFOOT: I mean it's really unfortunate that these very serious trends that we're seeing in some localities have become politicized. That is absolutely the wrong direction that we should be going. We should be thinking about ways that we can help support the police, help support communities and not turning it into a political football.
KASTE: The right thing to do, Lightfoot says, is to try to understand what's working, for instance, in New York City where murders are still down. Also, analysts say it's important to keep in mind that though these recent jumps have been big percentage-wise, the national homicide rate is still only about half what it was a generation ago. Martin Kaste, NPR News.
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