The United States recorded the largest annual increase in the number of homicides in 2020, the New York Times reported, citing the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s report published on Monday. In several American cities, the murder rate was at its highest ever. There is no simple explanation for such a sharp increase in the homicide rate, writes the NYT, but cites a pandemic among the main factors.
In 2020, the overall number of serious crimes in the United States decreased, but the number of homicides increased significantly. There were 4,901 more of them than in the previous year, FBI data show. This, the New York Times notes, is the highest annual increase since the US authorities began keeping the registry in 1960. The journal notes that the increase in the number of homicides coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are more factors contributing to this phenomenon.
In total, 21.5 thousand people were murdered in the United States in 2020. While the year-on-year increase is the largest in history, the total number of murders is still well below the infamous “record” set in the early 1990s. Several cities, including Albuquerque (New Mexico), Memphis (Tennessee), and Milwaukee, according to an FBI report, (Wisconsin) and Des Moines (Iowa), but last year saw the highest number of murders in history.
According to the FBI, the homicide rate also remains high in 2021, but is declining every month.
Murders “scattered” all over the United States
The 2020 homicide map was much more “scattered” than usual, according to an FBI report that lists nearly 16,000 crimes reported by law enforcement agencies across the United States. It wasn’t limited to big cities. Jeff Asher, a New Orleans-based crime analyst, noted that while killings in Los Angeles and New York City accounted for 13.8 percent of all such crimes in the United States in 1990, this share has now dropped to 3.8 percent.
New York City had 500 homicides in 2020, 181 more than the year before, but still significantly less than the worst year 1990, when more than 2,200 such crimes were committed, the NYT writes. The situation is similar in the next two largest US cities. In 2020, 351 people were murdered in Los Angeles – almost a hundred more than in 2019, but 700 fewer than in the record-breaking 1980. In Chicago, the number of homicides in 2020 was 771 – 271 more than the year before and 168 less than in 1992.
What is known about homicide victims
The report lists the victims of the homicides by sex, origin and skin color. These data are not complete, however, as not all investigative units provided this type of information. With this reservation, in 2020, the largest group of victims were black people – at least 9,913. White people were in second position – 7,029. 497 victims were representatives of other races. In at least 315 cases, the race of the dead could not be determined.
More than 14,000 victims were men, while women – 3,500.
Reasons for the increase in the number of homicides
There is no simple explanation for such a sharp increase in the homicide rate, writes the NYT. He adds that a number of key factors are responsible for this, including the economic and social problems caused by the pandemic and the increased interest in buying weapons by Americans. About 77 percent of reported killings in 2020 were by firearms, up from 67 percent a decade earlier, said Jeff Asher.
The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly contributed to the increase in the number of homicides, according to the New York daily. Many Americans experienced increased stress, people were forced to be confined together, and all this was accompanied by a climate of insecurity and anxiety. Millions of people in the United States have lost their jobs, their businesses and, in extreme cases, their homes. Many have personally experienced the trauma of the death of a loved one infected with the coronavirus. The widespread sense of desperation has contributed to fueling social friction and crime.
“People are desperate and don’t have many options, so they turn to violence as a way to solve problems,” said Enrique Cardiel, a health worker and community activist in Albuquerque, where the highest number of killings was recorded.
According to the NYT, the unrest over the death of black George Floyd during a police intervention contributed to the increased number of homicides in 2020. Some experts believe that the police, discouraged and under constant scrutiny, have withdrawn from certain aspects of crime prevention. Others point to the public, which, faced with the loss of respect for its officers, decided to enforce the law on its own.
The report details the persistent factors that contribute to the high number of homicides in the US. The combination of drugs, money and weapons has long been a trigger for brutal killings among young men, the paper writes.
Other causes of death were robberies and domestic violence.
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