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Cities with the Highest Increase in Homicide Rates During Covid

The homicide rate is increasing rapidly in the U.S., so much so that President Joe Biden has made tackling the problem a priority and spoke in his State of the Union address about his plans to reduce violence. Alarmingly, homicide rates have risen by an average of 17% in 50 of the most populated U.S. cities between Q1 2020 and Q1 2022, and are still rising.

In order to determine which cities have the biggest homicide problems, WalletHub compared 50 of the largest U.S. cities based on per capita homicides in Q1 2022, as well as per capita homicides in Q1 2022 vs. Q1 2021 and Q1 2020.

Expert Commentary

Why has there been a recent spike in homicides across the country?

“In many places, unemployment and under-employment may be causing more people to consider and commit illegal activity. In some places, more general uncertainty and fear caused by the pandemic is leading toward criminal activity. In some places, redeploying police resources toward social unrest is leading to less police in high crime areas. In other places, it may be police fear of doing their job because of the heightened scrutiny. Most like it is all of these factors coming together at once.”

Matthew Hale, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Seton Hall University

What will it take for the homicide rate to decrease again?

“We know that factors such as poverty and lack of education disproportionately impact certain communities, which also tend to experience higher rates of crime. We also know a small number of firearms dealers are responsible for selling the vast majority of guns used in violent crimes, and a small number of people and places are responsible for the vast majority of violence. However, police alone cannot effectively intervene and solve these problems. Research shows it is most effective to also partner with the community and service providers to help address the long- and short-term factors that are contributing to the increased level of violent crime.”

Bryanna Fox, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, University of South Florida

“Hopefully, as more and more people get vaccinated, we will see a sustained rebound in the economy and a return of face-to-face contact, community outlets, and interventions that help prevent violent crime in the first place.”

Diane Birnholz – Lecturer in Law, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

Will more homicides renew police reputation, or have the opposite effect?

“Police reputations are earned over time and destroyed in an instant. Most police officers are learning new ways of policing and I think over time that is what will repair the reputations of police. But that good work and improvement in policing practices do not matter when people see an instance of what they believe is unwarranted police violence, it all goes out the window. Rising crime likely means that some people will think about giving the police more latitude. But that is only at the margins. People want police to protect them and not to unjustly kill civilians. That does not change with a rising crime rate.”

Matthew Hale, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Seton Hall University

“It depends on what type of policing strategies are employed, harsher, 'get tough' policies tend to have a short-term effect or simply move crime from one area to another. Strategies like community policing may help build informal social controls in the community and between the community and police departments, leading to better outcomes in the long run. Ultimately, evidence-based practices (programs and strategies employed based on what had been found to effective through empirical/scientific evaluations) may prove to be the best approach.”

Christopher Salvatore, MA, Ph.D. – Associate Professor – Montclair State University


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