Homicides and gun violence have spiked in major cities around the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, spurred by an economic recession and unrest that arose from protests against police brutality.
Across the nation’s 50 largest cities, homicides are up 24 percent this year, totaling 3,612 so far, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of police department data. In 36 of those cities, the homicide rate increased by double digits.
Shootings have also surged, but other kinds of violent crime have declined, including robberies, which sank 11 percent across the 41 cities that provided such data.
Chicago saw the largest jump in homicides, reporting more than 400 more homicides than last year, an increase of more than 50 percent. Philadelphia and New York City came in just behind the country’s third-largest city, both tallying more than 200 more homicides this year. Along with Chicago, Austin and Fort Worth, Tx. saw the largest increase in murders.
The staggering increase in violence comes after months of protests against police departments that have included calls to defund and dismantle departments in Minneapolis, where the police custody death of George Floyd sparked national outrage. Homicides in Minneapolis have nearly doubled, with 41 homicides compared to 21 by this time last year.
Police and crime experts have attributed the spike in violence to a variety of factors, including a rise in gang violence, an economic recession caused by the shutdown of businesses, and the lack of activity during the pandemic by social institutions that historically help tamp down crime, such as churches and schools.
Meanwhile, lockdown orders that have kept residents in their homes may help explain the decline in robberies and rapes, since burglars are less likely to target a home with residents inside, and fewer potential victims were on the streets, experts said. The rise in shootings and murders was particularly stark in disadvantaged neighborhoods rather than the sites of protests against racism and police brutality in many cities.
The homicide rate in the nation’s major cities is still a far cry from the crime levels of previous decades, such as in 1990, when New York City recorded a total of 2,262 murders.