June 24, 2021 02:46

Urban Violent Crime Remains High During Pandemic

Violent crime rates remain up this year in a group of large U.S. cities, says a new report from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.

Homicide rates increased by 36 percent between June and October in 28 cities compared with the same period in 2019.

The murder rise cannot be blamed solely on the pandemic.

As early as January 2020, the average city homicide rate was running 10 percent to 30 percent higher than the year before, the report said.

This year between June and October, the aggravated assault rate increased by 15 percent, and gun assaults rose 16 percent.

The list of cities in the study includes Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

The study found that overall, homicides, aggravated assaults, and gun assaults rose significantly in late May and June, and then began to fall in late summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social unrest over police violence.

Domestic violence reports increased during the pandemic, but the increase was not significantly greater than the year before, said the report led by criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The domestic violence data came from only 12 of the 28 cities and may not represent a trend.

Nonresidential burglary rates more than doubled during one week week in early June compared with the same week last year, and then decreased abruptly to prior levels.

The spike was is likely associated with the property damage and looting at the beginning of protests against police violence after the death of George Floyd on May 25, Rosenfeld wrote.

The increase in homicides from June through October means that 610 more people were killed in the cities surveyed than during the same period in 2019.

With the exception of the brief spike in non-residential burglary, property and drug crime rates fell during the first eight months of the pandemic. Residential burglary dropped by 24 percent from the same period in 2019 while drug offense rates fell by 32 percent.

The study said there are evidence-based strategies available to address the increase in violence, but subduing the COVID-19 pandemic remains a necessary  ingredient.

“COVID-19 cases and deaths have soared to record levels in the very communities where the violence is concentrated,” the report said.

Police ability to prevent and investigate crimes is greatly diminished by social distancing requirements, the report said.

Social distancing impedes the anti-violence efforts of street outreach workers and others by preventing them from engaging directly with those at the highest risk for violence.

“City leaders face serious challenges posed by the recent rise in violent crime,” Rosenfeld wrote. “In our view, subduing the pandemic, pursuing crime-control strategies of proven effectiveness, and enacting needed police reforms will all be necessary to achieve durable reductions in violent crime in our cities.”

The COVID-19 council, chaired by former U.S. Attorneys General Alberto Gonzales and Loretta Lynch, was named by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ), a nonpartisan think tank.

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