The Crime Report has a really good article about homicide rates and why they to shrink or grow. The panel of experts thinks that, when the final numbers are in, 2010's homicide numbers will be flat or a little higher than 2009. The United States is pretty close to where it was in the 1960s. A lot of the peak years for murders, such as 1980 and the early 1990s, have coincided with a boom in the drug trade.
What's really shocking is some other cities' counts. El Paso has about three homicides so far this year. Seattle is on pace to record approximately 20. Kansas City, which is smaller than both, is a little over 100.