By Eamonn Burke
Last month, 65 people were shot in New York City and 87 in Chicago over the course of the 4th of July weekend. Six children were killed that weekend as well. The holiday may have been a peak in homicides, but numbers of shootings and deaths have been trending upward as the nation handles a pandemic and a historic recession. The amount of shootings in NYC from January to July exceeded the total for the entire year of 2019. Other major cities are experiencing high rates of gun violence as well, such as Philadelphia, where more than 240 people have been killed this year and which now has the 2nd highest homicide rate in the nation. Chicago saw a violent July, with 584 shootings and 105 deaths. Even smaller cities like Pheonix and Omaha are seeing rises.
As a whole, homicides are up 24% in the nation since last year. Data shows homicides and shootings trending upward sharply since late May in major cities across the US. However, as a national study shows, gun violence was creeping upward even before the pandemic began.
President Trump blames the rise in violent crime to “radical” Democratic politicians , such as Major Bill DeBlasio, despite signs that this is a bipartisan issue. DeBlasio himself blames the shootings on the virus, among other factors such as the BLM protests and faults in the criminal justice system that have recently been exposed. The Council on Criminal Justice also concluded that the virus is the root issue, and that it must be stopped first in order to reduce homicides. A chart of homicides in Chicago does in fact show a major spike after the beginning of the protests, and the BLM protests in 2014 and 2015 had a similar effect on gun violence. However, further analysis of police data instead points to a decrease in gun-related arrests as a potential cause, as well as the increase in gun purchases in recent months.
Police say that many of these crimes are gang related, and a shortage of staff due to the virus have made it harder to crack down on crime. DeBlasio was adamant about getting back on top of the gun crisis through the courts: “Our courts not only need to reopen, they need to reopen as fully and as quickly as possible.” Chief administrative judge Lawrence Marks fired back, saying the blame of courts was “false, misleading and irresponsible.”
A strange finding amongst this gun crisis is that rates of other crimes such as burglaries have not followed the same trend, and have even decreased in some cases. As this is extremely odd, it’s possible that it’s a matter of what is getting reported given the complications of COVID-19 and the BLM protests on policing.