How violent crime has gone up since the pandemic
Louisville Democratic mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg was at his campaign headquarters preparing for a meeting when a bullet grazed his sweater on Monday morning.
“A man walked into our office. When we greeted him, he pulled out a gun, aimed directly at me and began shooting,” Greenberg said at a press conference following the shooting.
Though Greenberg described himself as “shaken but safe,” his experience is just one incident in an uptick in violent crime seen throughout the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A look at the cities across the U.S. shows a trend of more violent crimes as the pandemic wanes on, though how significant that trend is varies from city to city.
New York City
In terms of murders, rapes and felony assaults, New York City’s police data showed 474 crimes for the week between Feb. 7 and Feb. 13, up from 350 the same week last year.
In Los Angeles, police data shows violent crimes reported in 2022 have hovered near the same rates seen at this time in 2020 before the pandemic had fully taken hold of the nation. Los Angeles has reported 2,752 violent crimes thus far in 2022, just over a 4 percent increase from the 2,633 violent crimes reported at the same time in 2020.
In Chicago, 74 murders were reported this year to date. That figure is up by 7 percent since the same time in 2021, 40 percent since 2020 and 100 percent since 2019, according to Chicago police.
The Houston Police Department told The Hill that it had reported 62 homicides in 2022 as of Feb. 15, a 32 percent increase from the same date last year when the city had 47.
In 2021, the department reported 476 murders or cases of non-negligent manslaughter compared to 392 in 2020.
But Howard Henderson, who works with Texas Southern University’s Center for Justice Research, told The Houston Chronicle that some crime statistics for the city “look worse than what it is.”
“We still don’t know the impact of COVID-19 on violent crime and we still don’t understand the social impact of protesting on police reform — it’s going to take time,” he added.
Louisville’s Metro Police Department reported 21 homicides to date in 2022 as of Feb. 13, just one less than this time in 2021.
The city had 185 homicide cases in 2021. In keeping with trends seen in other U.S. cities, that figure was up slightly from 150 cases in 2020 and 88 cases in 2019.
In Philadelphia, homicides have steadily increased each year since 2013. In more recent years, the city’s police department reported 356 homicides in 2019, 499 in 2020 and 562 in 2021. So far in 2022, Philadelphia has had 64 homicides, down 4 percent from this time last year.
Even outside of metropolitan areas, more rural areas have seen spikes in deadly shootings since the start of the pandemic.
Rural communities including Haskell, Okla., Yeehaw Junction, Fla., and Miner, Mo. all had deadly shootings during the summer of 2021, The New York Times reported.
With midterm elections fast-approaching, some Republicans have looked to portray Democrats as soft on crime as violence has become an increasingly more top-of-mind topic on the campaign trail.
Still, while violent crime has increased in the pandemic, its levels remain nowhere near those seen in the 1980s and 1990s.
The FBI’s crime data shows that violent crime peaked around 1991 at a rate of around 758 violent crimes per 100,000 people. A decade later, that rate fell sharply to around 504, and in 2011, it was down to about 387.
While the FBI’s data is currently only provided through 2020, violent crime rates jumped to nearly 400 that year, up from around 380 in 2019.
During that time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reported that the murder rate in the U.S. rose by 30 percent between 2019 and 2020, marking the largest single year increase since at least 1905 but possibly ever.
The jump seen in 2020 was far greater than the 20 percent increase reported in 2001, a figure driven up notably by the fatalities from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, told The Associated Press that the violence in 2020 was a “unique situation” prompted by the pandemic, racial and politically motivated conflicts and people having too much free time.
“I don’t want to minimize what’s happened. I just don’t want people to believe that the sky is falling and that this is a permanent” trend, Fox said to the AP.
But Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch for the National Center for Health Statistics, cautioned against connecting the violence too closely to the pandemic.
“You really have to look at other patterns and there certainly seems to be a correlation between the two but as we know correlation is not causation,” Anderson said in October. “It’s going to require some I think fairly intensive research to try to sort it all out.”
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