- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - This year is shaping up to be another deadly one in St. Louis, with the number of killings on pace to match or even exceed the startling total from 2015.

Fourth of July weekend was especially violent with six killings, bringing the city’s homicide total to at least 94 this year - one more than the same time in 2015, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/29ycbQ2 ) reported. Last year ended with 188 homicides, the most since 204 in 1995.

It isn’t just the city that seeing a spike: 31 people have been killed in St. Louis County, which is four more than 2015 over the same time period. And last year ended with a 78 percent increase in homicides over 2014 in the county.

The trend reflects a nationwide spike in homicides. Experts can’t point to a single reason why and the jump isn’t enough to suggest there’s a trend.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has renewed his call for tougher penalties for gun crimes and reiterated the need for more officers. He called homicides “the most violent and tragic of all crimes, but it impacts the smallest number of people and it’s almost always personal.”

“And, of all crimes, it’s the most difficult crime to prevent,” Dotson said. “And when we do see a precursor, such as crimes involving people carrying guns illegally, we don’t get the outcome in the court, so how do we expect not to see them reoffend time and again?”

Dotson also has asked officers to work overtime to make up for the 100 or so positions the department hasn’t filled.

Criminals are acting out with more powerful weapons than in the past, Dotson said. More than 60 shell casings collected at Moma Minnie’s Market on Monday after two people were killed there.

“Chiefs all over the country are seeing the same thing,” Dotson said. “It’s the availability of firearms in the hands of individuals and their willingness to use it indiscriminately.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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