‘No Modern Precedent’: America Sees ‘Historic’ Homicide Increase In 2020, Report Finds

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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The U.S. saw a “historic” increase in murder rates over the course of 2020 compared to 2019 throughout 34 American cities, according to a study released Monday.

Homicides, were defined as “deliberate and unlawful killings of one human being by another,” were 30% higher in 2020 — a “historic increase representing 1,268 more deaths” in the 34 cities studied over the rates recorded in 2019, according to a report from the National Commission of COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (NCCCJ).

“Homicide rates were higher during every month of 2020 relative to rates from the previous year,” the report states. “That said, rates increased significantly in June, well after the pandemic began, coinciding with the death of George Floyd and the mass protests that followed.”

“Overall, homicide rates increased 30% in 2020, a large and troubling increase that has no modern precedent.”

While the NCCCJ reported the “large size of this increase is deeply troubling,” the “absolute rates of homicide remain well below historical highs.”

The homicide rate for 2020 was 11.4 deaths for every 100,000 residents in sample cities compared to the rate in 1995 which was 19.4 for every 100,000 residents.

The report also noted that, like most of the other crimes studied, a “clear cyclical pattern” was seen over time that shows the crimes spiked during the summer months and fell throughout the fall and winter. Still, murder rates “exceeded previous rates throughout the entire year.”

Homicides increased 32.5% between January and February compared to 2019. Meanwhile between June and August there was a 37.2% increase. September through December saw a 28.2% spike, according to the report. (RELATED: Los Angeles Saw The Number Of Rapes, Robberies Fall, While Homicides Rose In 2020)

While the analysts found the pandemic likely “suppressed” some homicides because it limited “opportunities,” the analysts believe the pandemic may have exacerbated the “commission of homicides in multiple ways.”

The pandemic created more stress in terms of financially, mentally or physically and “disproportionately affected vulnerable populations.”

TACOMA, WA - JANUARY 24: Broken windows are seen at South Sound 911 during an anti-police protest on January 24, 2021 in Tacoma, Washington. The previous day, a Tacoma police officer drove through a crowd, spurring outrage and triggering an investigation. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

TACOMA, WA – JANUARY 24: Broken windows are seen at South Sound 911 during an anti-police protest on January 24, 2021 in Tacoma, Washington.  (David Ryder/Getty Images)

“COVID-related restrictions may have had an initial suppressive effect on homicides, but the waning of those restrictions, coupled with the strain on at-risk individuals and key institutions– aggravated further by the lack of outreach to such individuals– have all likely contributed to elevated homicide rates in 2020,” according to the report.

There were 278 more murders in Chicago in 2020, which translated to a 55% surge from 2019. New York City saw a 43% jump, with an additional 131 homicides, according to the report.

Meanwhile, gun assault rates were up approximately 8%, although the report only tracked data in 15 of the cities studied due to available data, according to the report.  Aggravated assault rates also 6% , according to the report.

The study analyzed monthly crime data from 34 U.S. cities, which varied in both size and population, for year-to-year changes in 10 different crime categories. Aside from the three offenses previously mentioned, the report also studied the rates of domestic violence, robbery, residential burglary, nonresidential burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and drug offenses.

Residential burglaries decreased by 24%, nonresidential burglaries were down 7%, larceny decreased by 16% and drug offenses fell by 30%, according to the report. Robbery rates also declined by 9%, according to the report.

The NCCCJ attributes some of the declines to the pandemic.

“The timing of these declines coincided with the stay-at-home mandates and business closings in response to the pandemic. Quarantine reduce residential burglaries– when residents are at home, opportunities for burglaries are foreclosed. When businesses are closed, there is no opportunity for larcenies such as shoplifting.”

Motor vehicle theft, however, was up by 13%.

Domestic violence rates, which were based on data from just 12 cities, also saw an initial increase but later leveled out to reflect rates similar to those of 2019.

“While there was a significant increase in domestic violence during the early months of the pandemic, year-end rates were approximately the same as the year before,” the report states. “These results should be viewed with caution as victims may have found it difficult to report domestic abuse to the police.”