Detroit's Murder Rate Explodes

DETROIT--The city's murder rate, already among the highest in the nation, has jumped 16.7 percent in the first half of 1999, although other serious crimes dropped significantly.

The city recorded 57,736 serious crimes from January through June, a 15.8 percent drop over the same period a year ago. The largest drop came in larcenies, which were down 25.5 percent, while assaults, auto thefts, burglaries, rapes and robberies also declined.

But murders were up 16.7 percent to 224. Mayor Dennis Archer and Police Chief Benny Napoleon said the increase was baffling--especially after the rate fell in 1998--because it had no clear cause and no obvious solution.

"I wish we had sufficient police officers that we could put an officer on every corner of the streets where we live," Archer said. "The reality is that the homicides that are taking place are taking place behind closed doors."

In 1998 Detroit had 429 murders, or 44.2 per 100,000 people, ranking it sixth among U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents.


* CHICAGO--Federal prosecutors launched what they called the nation's first concerted attack on suburban gun dealers who arm city gangs, announcing charges against 13 buyers and sellers. Owners and employees of five suburban gun shops and two of the shops themselves were accused of supplying guns to "straw purchasers" with clean police records who were standing in for the actual buyers--gang members with long rap sheets who are barred from buying guns.

* OKLAHOMA CITY--The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Tecumseh school district's policy of drug testing not just for athletes but also for students who join such groups as the debate team, choir and marching band. The ACLU said the lawsuit is the first in the nation to challenge mandatory testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities that are tied to their courses during the regular school day.

* LOS ANGELES--Thou shalt not display signs containing the Ten Commandments on high school baseball fields, the District Appeals Court in Los Angeles has ruled, agreeing with a lower court that hanging a sign with the commandments on a school baseball diamond in suburban Downey violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

* ORLANDO--Florida jurors acquitted Shirley Egan, 68, of attempted murder in the shooting of her daughter, Georgette Smith, 42, who later decided to end her life rather than live as a quadriplegic. Prosecutors said Egan fired after overhearing Smith and her boyfriend discussing whether to put Egan in a nursing home. Egan also was acquitted of trying to kill the boyfriend, Larry Videlock.

* Vessels traveling in the South Atlantic's most popular shipping lanes could be threatened by icebergs breaking away from a major floe the size of Rhode Island, the National Ice Center in Suitland said. The big berg is unlikely to be struck, but center officials said the danger is from smaller bergs, ranging from minivan-size to the scale of small buildings.

* BOSTON--Raffi Kodikian, 25, was charged with murder for fatally stabbing his camping buddy, David Coughlin, 26, after the pair ran out of water. Kodikian said a dehydrated, panicky Coughlin begged to be put out of his misery in Carlsbad Caverns National Park on Aug. 7. Kodikian said they were lost after two days, but investigators said their campsite was only 250 feet from the trail and a mile away from Coughlin's Mazda. Had they climbed to the top of the canyon they would have seen the park's visitors center.

* BOSTON--The highest court in Massachusetts again reinstated the conviction of a former day care center operator accused in one of the most lurid mass child molestation cases of the 1980s. The decision means Cheryl Amirault LeFave, who has served eight years behind bars but has been free since 1995, probably will be sent back to prison.

* SAN FRANCISCO--Environmental activists filed suit in federal court seeking to stop what one critic called the "animal genocide" that could result from weakened U.S. standards for "dolphin safe" tuna. The suit seeks to block labeling changes that would allow tuna caught by a previously banned method known as "encirclement" to be sold in the United States under the "dolphin safe" labels.