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Murder rates rising, cities respond

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A recent spate of gun violence - including two incidents that dozens of children at city parks witnessed - has shaken Boston neighborhoods, leaving residents stunned and police and community leaders scrambling for a solution.

Already this year, the city has recorded more homicides than last year's total of 41. More worrisome still are the victims' ages: To date, 23 people under age 24 have been killed. Experts say that gangs and drugs are likely culprits.

"I don't know what kids are thinking - kids killing kids," says Kathleen Jones, a resident of Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. She had brought 6 of her 10 grandchildren to a ribbon-cutting ceremony of a local playground last week. Hours earlier, a 15-year-old was grazed by a bullet in a nearby park while waiting for a pizza.

Ms. Jones is not alone in her disbelief. Urban centers nationwide, from Denver to Durham, N.C., are seeing a resurgence of gang activity and are struggling for ways to cope.

According to a report released by "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids," a group of 2,000 sheriffs, prosecutors, and crime survivors, youth-gang related homicides were up more than 50 percent from 1999 to 2002, the last year data is available.

In both Chicago and Los Angeles, gang activity accounts for approximately half of all homicides. But there is growing evidence that groups are also percolating in smaller urban areas, pushing up murder rates.

• Denver recorded its 49th homicide Aug. 4, which represents a 69 percent increase from the same period a year ago. Tim Twining, chief deputy of the gang unit in the district attorney's office in Denver, says the city has seen a spike in newer and younger gang members. A database currently lists 6,300 members in the area.

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