Violent crime in America rose for the second straight year in 2016, but it remained near historically low levels, according to FBI data released Monday. The numbers were driven by a spike in killings in some major cities, per the AP. Violent crimes such as shootings and robberies rose 4.1% in 2016 from the year before, with homicides climbing 8.6%, according to the figures. Violence increased 3.9% in 2015, while killings jumped by more than 10%. The Trump administration immediately seized on the figures as proof that the nation is in the midst of a dangerous crime wave that warrants a return to tougher tactics like more arrests and harsher punishments for drug criminals. But criminologists cautioned the new numbers may not indicate the start of a long-term trend, noting that violent crime rates remain well below where they were a quarter-century ago.
Still, the FBI said it was the first time violent crime rose in consecutive years in more than a decade. "This is a frightening trend that threatens to erode so much progress that had made our neighborhoods and communities safer—over 30 years [of] declines in crime are being replaced by increases," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week. He has directed the nation's federal prosecutors to seek tougher sentences against most suspects, including some low-level drug offenders, and has urged prosecutors to focus more intensely on prosecuting gun cases. Still, the violent crime rate in 2016 was down significantly from several years ago. It dropped 18% from 2007, and the murder rate was 6% lower than it was the same year, according to the data.