(The Crime Report) As America emerges from the pandemic, increasing violent crime rates represent a warning to city and state leaders not to relax focus on strategies to reduce violence and address the issues contributing to criminal behavior in the nation’s most troubled neighborhoods, says a study released Friday.
The report by criminologists Richard Rosenfeld and Ernesto Lopez of the University of Missouri-St. Louis found that while murders have declined slightly since the summer of 2020, the homicide rate still rose by 24 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period last year.
The figures amount to a 49 percent increase over the same period in 2019.
Aggravated and gun assault rates also rose by 7 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in the same quarter, according to the study released by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (NCCJ).
The high statistical increase masked a relatively small number of additional murders or violent crimes in many of the 24 cities which provided data for the report, the authors cautioned. A 113 percent homicide rate increase in Omaha, Neb., for instance, represented an increase from three murders between January and March 2020, to seven in the first quarter of 2021.
And overall, the 2020-2021 crime rates continue to follow a two-decades-long decline in homicide across the U.S., the authors added. In 1995, there were 19.5 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 11.4 deaths per 100,000 at the end of 2020.
Nonetheless, the spike in murders and violent assaults has surprised many observers who assumed violent crime rates would parallel the decrease in other types of crime since the coronavirus spread across the U.S.
And they almost entirely occurred in neighborhoods already plagued by gang violence, drug trafficking and unemployment―a factor which “requires an urgent response from city leaders,” the authors wrote.