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Nation’s largest cities suffered 30% increase in homicides in 2020, report finds

Andrew Trunsky, DCNF

Homicides spiked 30% in 34 of the United States’ largest cities in 2020, according to a report conducted by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.

Of the cities studied in the report, Chula Vista, California, saw the greatest increase in homicides, with 150% more in 2020 than the previous year. Madison and Milwaukee, the two largest cities in Wisconsin, saw increases of 100% and 85%, respectively, while only four cities – Raleigh, North Carolina; Baltimore; St. Petersburg, Florida; and Virginia Beach – saw declines in 2020.

The reports’ authors attributed the nationwide spikes to the coronavirus pandemic and the widespread protests over racial injustice and police violence. Thomas Abt, who directed the commission that authored the report, said that the pandemic prevented the implementation of anti-crime tactics by police and social workers and withdrew resources that were previously focused on preventing crime in urban centers and hot spots.

The sharpest spikes in violence were recorded in June, just days after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. The report also said that the increases in homicides in the cities studied likely means that the national homicide will jump at a record rate as well, exceeding the 10.2% increase from 2015 to 2016 after the police killings in Ferguson, Missouri and surpassing the largest single-year increase of 12.7% in 1968.

While the report found a sharp uptick in homicides, it noted that the homicide rate remains far lower than it was 25 years ago.

In 2020, the homicide rate was 11.4 deaths per 100,000 residents in the cities sampled, compared to 19.4 deaths per 100,000 residents in 1995.

Additionally, though the report found that aggravated assaults and gun assaults jumped 6% and 8%, respectively, in 2020, it also found that robbery rates declined by 9%. Residential burglaries decreased by 24% and drug offenses decreased by 30%, the report found, but motor vehicle theft rose by 13%.

In New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the United States’ three largest cities, the homicide rate rose by 43%, 55% and 37%, respectively.

In St. Louis, Detroit and Washington, D.C., the homicide rate increased by 35%, 19% and 14%. Long Beach, California, was the only city whose homicide rate remained unchanged from 2019, the report found.

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