The increase in U.S. murders from 2019 to 2020 was the largest in the FBI's recorded history, and the surge has continued into 2021, albeit at a slower rate, according to data released Monday by the FBI.
There were 4,901 more murders in 2020 than the prior year, or about 30%, The New York Times reported from a review of the FBI data.
"It is a perfect storm," Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina told the Times of the myriad reasons for deadly violence, including COVID-19, social unrest, and bail reform releasing alleged criminals back out on the streets. "There is not just one factor that we can point at to say why we are where we are."
Albuquerque, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Des Moines were among the cities recording their highest murder totals ever, according to the report.
"People are desperate and they don't have a lot of options, so they turn toward violence as a way to solve things," public health worker Enrique Cardiel from the Albuquerque neighborhood with the highest number of murders in the city told the Times.
While the COVID-19 pandemic had kept areas of the country largely locked down for portions of 2020, the stress of staying indoors and away from others might be a reason for the increase, said University of New Mexico professor Peter Winograd.
"This is a country where everybody is suffering a little post-COVID traumatic syndrome, and not knowing what is going to happen," Winograd told the Times. "That is huge."
The data showed there were 14,146 men killed and 3,573 women. Also, 9,913 Blacks were killed, compared to 7,029 white people, 497 from other races, and 315 of unknown race.
"It is those people and places, the pandemic's impact on those people that matters most," Council on Criminal Justice senior fellow Thomas Abt told the Times. "For the men who are at the highest risk of violence, living in poor communities of color, typically, they were already under pressure, they were already under strain, they were already marginalized and isolated, and the pandemic exacerbated that significantly."
By city, according to the FBI data:
- New York City — around 500 killed
- Chicago — 771 killed
- Los Angeles — 351 killed
The George Floyd protests causing nationwide civil unrest and defund the police talk were also contributing factors, according to Winograd.
"The distrust of police, the low morale among police, the fact that the police are being less proactive because they are legitimately worried about being backed up by their superiors," Winograd told the Times.
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