Murders of children “doubled in NYC in 2021 compared to last year (as did fatal shootings),” notes John Hall. The Council on Criminal Justice sought to minimize the increased loss of life, by pointing out that murders of adults rose slightly faster. “Recent media reports have featured tragic stories about young victims of violence. But data show the age of people lost to homicide – and arrested for murder – has held steady between 2010 and 2020,” it said; by comparison, “people 19 and younger made up 15% of homicide victims in 2020, down from 17% in 2010. The proportion of people arrested of murder who were 19 and younger fell from 20% to 18% during the same timeframe.” By “contrast, the percentages of murder victims and people arrested for homicide who are aged 30 to 39 rose steadily over the past decade.”
Desperate to avoid the reality that soft-on-crime policies are causing a spike in murder, liberal journalists claim that the rise in homicide is a temporary blip caused by the coronavirus pandemic, rather than being the result of the soft-on-crime policies they recently got officials to adopt. They continue to make this claim, no matter how many times people point out that this isn’t true, because murder rates fell in most of the world during the pandemic, unlike the United States, where the criminal-justice system has become less effective, amid an anti-police atmosphere.
In May, I pointed out that soft-on-crime policies, not the global pandemic, were why murder rates were rising in the United States. But politicians continued to blame rising murder rates in 2021 on the pandemic.
So in the Washington Post, I explained why blaming the pandemic was wrong, on September 4. I noted that an
editorial, “Too much death”, asked whether homicides rose in the United States because of “the covid-19 pandemic” or “national protests” against the police.
It can’t be because of the coronavirus pandemic because the pandemic afflicted the whole world, but only a tiny handful of countries, including the United States, had big increases in their homicide rates in 2020.
Murder rates actually fell in most countries that lost many of their citizens to the coronavirus. For example, Peru had the world’s highest coronavirus death rate per million inhabitants. Three times as high a percentage of Peruvians died of the virus vs. Americans. Countless Peruvians lost their jobs, and schools and social services shut down. Yet Peru’s homicide rate fell by more than 2 percent in 2020.
Mexico’s murder rate fell in 2020, even though Mexico and the United States lost similar fractions of their citizens to the coronavirus, and even though Mexico’s economy crashed much worse than the United States’ during the pandemic.
But even after I pointed this out in the Washington Post, reporters for the Washington Post and other publications contained to speculate on Twitter that “pandemic stress” may be why murder is rising in the United States. They cited an article making that claim in the Tulsa World. They ignored what happened in the rest of the world, and the fact that murder went down in most of the world during the coronavirus pandemic, including in nations where pandemic stress was most severe.
On September 24, I noted in CNS News that the nations with the most pandemic stress tended to have falling murder rates during the pandemic. For example, “nations where many people are poor and hungry, like Honduras and Venezuela, had falling murder rates in 2020, even though their economies shrank more than America’s” in percentage terms. And murders decreased in the United States during the 2007-2009 recession, when many people lost their jobs and ran out of money. So economic stress doesn’t result in large increases in the murder rate.
Yet, on September 30, the Washington Post published an article claiming the “murder surge” likely happened because “the pandemic cleared the streets of potential witnesses.” But the pandemic cleared the streets in much of the world, but murder rates fell there — many countries like France had more strict lockdowns than the United States, and did even more to clear their streets of potential witnesses. But as the New York Post noted, in France, “murders were down 2 percent.”
The media have gotten one thing right: the murder rate continues to rise. In 2020, murder rose at an unprecedented 30 percent annual rate, as incarceration rates fell, police manpower shrank, and anti-police protests spread across the nation. As the New York Times noted, “There is no precedent for last year’s increase in the number of murders.” The previous largest one-year increase was 12.7 percent, in 1968.
And the murder rate is still going up in 2021. The Times reports that “data from 87 cities with publicly available year-to-date data shows murder up by 9.9 percent relative to comparable points in 2020. Some cities like Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas are seeing big increases relative to last year.”
The Daily Wire notes that “it wasn’t the pandemic that increased violent crime in America.” Instead,
“The rise in violence coincided with anti-police rhetoric and laws as well as lawlessness in major cities across the U.S. following the police-involved death of George Floyd. The treatment of police by Democrats and their media supporters led to massive resignations and retirements in the police force.
The New York Times addressed the issue after the Asheville Police Department in North Carolina announced it had lost 84 officers and would no longer be able to respond to numerous crimes, including theft from a vehicle if there is no suspect information and simple assaults reported after they occurred.”
Police manpower was shrinking even before the George Floyd incident, which accelerated the trend. In the last few years, there has been “a notable decline in the number of police on the beat,” said Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute:
“In a September 2019 report, the Police Executive Research Forum outlined what it declared a ‘workforce crisis.’ A robust body of research has thoroughly illustrated that more police means less crime — a finding at odds with ever-more-popular calls to ‘defund the police.’ It stands to reason that a significant decline in the sizes of the nation’s police forces could have helped set the stage for the violent crime uptick. There is also reason to believe that — in part because of the anti-police sentiments that characterized last summer’s protests — the cops we have left became less proactive.”
Another factor in rising violence is falling incarceration rates, which result in violent offenders being released from jail or not being jailed in the first place. The number of people in America’s prisons and jails dropped by 14% from 2019 to mid-2020.
Many murderers are spending less time in prison, due to recent “criminal justice reforms” — even though short sentences are less effective at deterring crime than longer sentences. California recently made tens of thousands of violent offenders eligible for early release (including killers), and it earlier expanded parole for young adults who committed murder. Last year, Washington, D.C.’s city government made murderers eligible to seek release after 15 years, if they committed their crime before age 25.
In places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, left-wing district attorneys have recently refused to prosecute any minors — even murderers — in adult court. So murderers who commit their crimes at age 17 will not be locked up for more than a few years. Shootings rose 73 percent in Los Angeles in the first four months of 2021, after rising 40 percent in 2020. Murder rates peak in the late teens and early 20s.