Amid a violent year in Houston that escalated Monday with the deaths of six people, including a Houston Police Department sergeant, the number of murders in the city has reached the highest point in more than a decade, the Houston Chronicle reports. Police have attributed at least 345 deaths this year to murder, ending a four-year predominantly downward trend. With about seven weeks remaining until the year’s end, Houston’s murders — should they continue their upward trend — could approach or exceed the per capita murder rate of those killed in 2006, when police 376 murders. The murder rate — calculated by the number of murders per 100,000 people — in Houston has historically fluctuated since 1980. It would take scores more murders to outpace the city’s all-time high of 701 killings in 1981, during Houston’s economic boom. The lowest number of murders — 198 people — was reported in 2011 when 2.1 million people lived in Houston.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said that while 2020 has been “a disturbing year,” the city is not alone in its crime wave. Other cities are experiencing “a great deal of violence.” “A lot of things are happening on our streets,” Turner said. “A lot of people who are on edge. I want people to pray for our city and kind of calm down. Bring the violence down.” Violent crime overall has been increasing in recent months because of a higher number of aggravated assaults. As for what is driving the increase in murders, Turner was puzzled. “I wish I could explain why people do the things that they do,” the mayor said. “But I will say, COVID-19 is not a justification for any kind of crime.”