What’s Behind the Spiking Murder Rates Across the U.S.?

By  //  February 18, 2021

In 2020, there was a 35% rise in the number of homicides across 51 major cities in the U.S. These worrying figures even surpass the murder rates of the late 80s and 90s.

Sadly, for every murder that occurs, a loved one is lost. Criminal justice think tanks, crime analysts, sociologists, psychiatrists, and other experts are trying to figure out what’s behind the spike.

Perhaps learning the reasons behind the sharp rise could help authorities create better policies that could stop the trend, prevent a relapse, and allow families and communities to make adjustments that could improve their safety. Although we can’t know for certain the exact reasons behind the numbers, various experts have offered some possible explanations.

Economic Hardships Caused by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only caused thousands of deaths directly, but has also acted as a catalyst for violence. Experts suggest that the economic hardship that has accompanied the virus has led to despair for many individuals who have lost their income, forcing them to take extreme measures.

And when people turn to the underground economy, whether it is through theft, armed robbery or trafficking, murder rates tend to increase.

It’s expected that the cases will reduce once the pandemic has subdued and employment opportunities grow. The growing number of cases has also meant a spike in people seeking legal representation. When facing charges for a crime that led to someone’s death, working with an experienced murder defense attorney will help you secure your rights.

Changes in Police Activity

Over the past few years, law enforcement officers have had to change how they function due to pressure from the community. The 2020 protests against police brutality led to many changes in some police forces, resulting in some officers quitting their jobs out of fear, anger, frustration, or lack of motivation.

Other cities have championed de-policing initiatives, which has had an impact on the effectiveness of police in stopping violent crime.

Not only that, the global pandemic has forced officers to change how they operate as they grapple with the new norm. When police officers abide by COVID-19 restrictions such as staying in their vehicle or maintaining social distancing, it can be difficult to be proactive enough to prevent some crimes, some of which lead to violence and murder.

Again, with record low revenues, governments have been forced to cut resources and budgets for police departments in many districts.

Communities Pulling Back From the Police

It has been a tough time for police officers, as they are increasingly facing isolation in some communities. After some high-profile killings in 2020, some communities felt unfairly targeted and lost confidence in the police.

As a result, citizens become reluctant to reach out when they witness a crime taking place or refuse to cooperate when police conduct investigations. Such alienation has led to more insecure neighborhoods as criminals don’t get punished or people take matters into their own hands.

Dramatic Increase in Firearms Purchases

Americans have been stacking up on guns in record numbers. In fact, more than 17 million firearms were bought in 2020, comfortably surpassing previous records.

The surge in firearm purchase coincided with the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the civil unrest felt in many areas of the country. Some experts speculate that the increased ownership could trigger a rise in gun violence. Especially when you take into account that firearms are the weapon of choice in 66% of homicides.

Spike in Violent Protests

Although there has not been an established connection between the 2020 protests and the spike in murder cases, some observers have refused to rule out the possibility. Although anti-police or pro-police protesters are not solely to blame, the civil unrest may have contributed to more homicides overall.

More Research Needs To Be Done

It will take time and more research before we truly uncover the mystery of the increase in murders from 2020. For now, all we can do is look at theories. We should, however, remain optimistic that this worrying trend will abate as the pandemic fades away.