With the start of the pandemic, we watched as a lot of crime kind of ground to a halt. After all, people were locked down in so many places that criminals couldn’t roam the streets and not elicit attention to some degree. That put the kibosh on a lot of stuff.
Yet as lockdowns eased and riots started, we began to get a lot of reports of an increase in homicides. People were being killed.
We all knew that the homicide rate was skyrocketing. We just didn’t know how badly.
The number of murders in the United States rose nearly 30% in 2020 and overall violent crime rose for the first time in four years, the FBI said in its annual crime report on Monday, in a surge experts attribute in part to COVID-19 hardships.
Murder and non-negligent manslaughter offenses rose 29.4 percent in 2020 over 2019, marking the largest annual increase since national record-keeping began in the 1960s, the New York Times and Washington Post reported.
Overall violent crime was up 5.6% to nearly 1.3 million incidents, although property crime fell 7.8% to nearly 6.5 million incidents, marking the 18th consecutive year that property crimes have decreased, the FBI said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program collects data reported by law enforcement agencies across the country.
A greater percent of homicides were the result of gun violence – 76% in 2020 versus 73% in 2019 – with Houston seeing a 55% increase in gun homicides, reaching 343 in 2020 compared to 221 in 2019, the Washington Post reported.
This comes at a time when some are desperately trying to restrict guns even more than they already are. This is definitely a less than great time, to be sure. Not that there’s ever a good time for such a massive spike in homicides and violent crime.
Yet let’s also understand that this kind of spike is kind of unprecedented. Not only in size but that it far outstrips any other kind of crime.
Typically, homicide increases coincide with an increase in other violent crimes and at similar rates. That’s because many homicides were the result of some other crime gone bad. That’s not happening here. This…this is different.
As we’ve noted previously, this spike in murders doesn’t look like past increases. These shootings aren’t random acts of violence. They’re deliberate. Someone is going out and trying to murder another party. Maybe it’s opportunity, maybe they’re hunting them, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
What does matter is that the homicide rate just rocketed up. Thankfully, it rocketed up compared to the previous year, which was quite low, so an almost 30 percent increase isn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds.
Regardless, there’s little reason to expect the 2021 numbers to be any more reassuring based on what we’ve seen. They might be up, but even if they’re down, it’s not likely to be a significant dip over 2020.
Obviously, this will cause issues with the gun debate. Plenty will point to these numbers and claim they “prove” the need for more gun control. What they fail to account for is that there weren’t a whole lot of gun laws repealed during the pandemic or immediately afterward, even at the state level. If a lack of gun control caused the problem, why didn’t the problem exist before then?
Of course, we know that’s not the issue. What we need to work out is just what caused this so we can address it.