The number of homicides in the United States continued to rise in the first three quarters of 2021, but at a slower pace, one year after a record increase in murders that followed George Floyd’s killing, according to the latest quarterly report published Monday by the Council on Criminal Justice.
A study of homicides in 22 cities during the first nine months of this year showed the number of murders was 4% greater than the same period in 2020, with 126 more homicides between January and September, the report says. In the first three quarters of 2020, the number of homicides in the same 22 cities rose by 36% over the same time frame in 2019, according to the report.
According to a report by the CCJ issued in July, the number of homicides during the first half of 2021 increased by 16% compared to the same period last year. The number of homicides in 2020 compared to 2019 rose by 25%, according to an FBI preliminary report, the largest jump since the FBI started releasing annual homicide figures in the 1960s.
The spike in violent crime came as the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the country, millions of people protested racial injustice and police brutality following Floyd’s death last year, and the economy collapsed under the weight of the pandemic.
The homicide rate remained elevated through the summer before decreasing in the fall and winter and then increasing again in the spring and summer of this year, the report says. But even with the 2021 increase, the homicide rate for the 22 cities studied was just over half of what it was in the early 1990s, according to the report.
Aggravated assaults — assaults committed with a deadly weapon or threatened serious injury — in 17 cities with available data peaked during the summer of 2020 “at levels that surpassed those of the previous peak” before decreasing for the remainder of the year and rising again in the first half of 2021, the report says. The number of aggravated assaults in the first three quarters of 2021 was 3% higher than the same period last year, with 1,515 more aggravated assaults, the report says.
Gun assaults in 13 cities with available data peaked during the summer of 2020 and peaked again in the spring and summer of this year. There were 109 more gun assaults in the first three quarters of 2021 than during the same time frame last year, the report says.
“Even at a slower rate of increase, the elevated rates of homicide and serious assaults require an urgent response from government and community leaders,” the report concluded. “Evidence-based strategies are available to address the increase in the short and medium term. As the pandemic subsides, cities should redouble efforts to deploy hot-spot strategies that focus on those areas where the violence is concentrated.”
The 22 cities that were studied in the report are St. Petersburg, Florida; Austin, Texas; Norfolk, Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky; Pittsburgh; Los Angeles; Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville; Buffalo, New York; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Detroit; Chicago; Denver; Baltimore; Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee; Phoenix; Seattle; Omaha, Nebraska; and Chandler, Arizona.
Anti-crime efforts, including those by street outreach workers and other non-police actors, should work alongside long-term reforms to increase accountability for police misconduct and to redirect certain police roles to other agencies, the report says.
“Abandoning long-needed police reform is not a viable policy option,” the report states. “Rather, change is essential to improve the relationship between police and communities and achieve durable reductions in urban violence.”
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