Spike in Murder Rates in the U.S: Factors That Contributed to the Increase

By  //  May 10, 2022

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According to a study of homicides, the homicide rate climbed in 2021 by 16 percent compared to the 2020 record and by 42 percent compared to the first half of 2019. The rapid surge in the homicide rate raises tension among Americans.

“The rate of homicide does not rise without causative factors. There are undoubtedly reasons for the increase in homicide in 2021,” says criminal defense attorney William Umansky. A thorough understanding of these factors and the development of strategies to address them will go a long way toward lowering the homicide rate.

Factors Contributing to Homicide Upsurge

The impact of the pandemic on youths, outreach workers, and police officers is only a few of the contributing factors. The killing of George Floyd, and a rapid jump in gun sales, all contributed to the rise in homicide rates.

#1. The Strain of Pandemic On Youths

During the pandemic, many were idle; many had nothing meaningful to do with their time. According to criminologists, isolation and being idle may cause criminal activities. When people, especially youths, lack the right social connections and have unlimited free time on their hands, they are more likely to get into trouble.

The pandemic disrupted much of daily life, including schools and several industries. As a result, many youths spend more time in gangs or other unlawful conduct, sometimes to make ends meet or to socialize. These scenarios were more likely in 2020, potentially leading to more violence.

#2. Pandemic Impact on Outreach Workers and Policing 

The pandemic had a significant impact on the activities of community-based gun violence intervention workers, also known as violence interrupters.

The outreach workers discover people most likely to engage in shootings, connect them with necessary social resources, and settle conflicts before it turns violent. Once the outreach workers find these individuals, they can link them with social resources like career training programs and child care assistance.

The tactic has proved successful in curbing violence, but it largely depends on face-to-face outreach. Unfortunately, fears of COVID-19 transmission had an impact on the program. In addition, some outreach workers became ill and died due to COVID-19. 

There were also limitations by the police officers in engaging with the public due to the pandemic. We know that reducing violence requires constant interaction with the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable places. The withdrawal of these violence interrupters due to COVID is a contributing factor causing homicide increase.

#3. The Killing of George Floyd

After the police killing of George Floyd, the video went viral on social media, causing protests over police brutality. The protest contributed to the homicide increase in two ways. 

First, police officers are afraid of being unfairly scrutinized and may lose their jobs while carrying out their duties. Thus, pulling back from their usual preventative crime-fighting practices. The pullback increased crime rates, especially violent crime.

Secondly, many people lost faith in the police, affecting the police-public relationship. Due to a lack of confidence, the public has become less willing to rely on police, supply information, or serve as witnesses. People no longer call the cops when they see crimes, making it difficult for cops to apprehend perpetrators who commit other crimes.

#4. A Sudden Surge In Firearms Purchase

According to studies, fearful citizens raced out to buy firearms in record-breaking numbers as the virus spread. Sales soared, and 2020 ended with a 39 percent increase in sales over any other year. While many citizens buy firearms for protection, other citizens, on the other hand, buy more firearms with the sole intention of committing crimes.

However, according to studies, increased gun purchases is linked to increased violence. Because there are so many firearms available, they are more likely to be utilized in violent acts. For example, during heated arguments or fights that might spiral out of control or criminals stealing firearms to commit other crimes.

Solutions to Cut Down Murder Rate and Crime In General

Regardless of whether the 2020 murder surge is long- or short-term, there are proven methods to reduce crime and murder rates in the United States. Thus, the Policymakers could use the following evidence-based approaches:

#1. Improve the Physical Environments in Which People Live

There are vacant or neglected lots in many U.S. towns and localities. Cleaning up these neglected areas will help to reduce crime.

According to a 2018 randomized controlled experiment published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), doing so in Philadelphia worked. The strategy helped in crime and violence reduction and worries of both without shifting these issues to nearby areas. Gun assaults fell above 29 percent in poor neighborhoods with refurbished lots.

There are various hypotheses as to why this works, according to experts. Most shooters will flee if there are people in the area. Cleaning up the area means removing a haven for would-be shooters. Thus, the strategy works in reducing violent crimes.

#2. Reduce the Idleness of Youths

Young people, particularly boys and men, perpetrate a significant ratio of gun violence. One method to prevent this is to keep youths occupied with other activities, such as school or jobs.

Recent research by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides compelling data (clear evidence). According to the study, New York City youth randomly assigned to summer job programs were less likely to commit crimes. According to the report, they are youths who have had prior involvement in the criminal justice system.

Research published in the American Economic Journal is another piece of evidence. According to the research, keeping children in school longer by raising the age or grade of lawfully dropping out reduces criminal activity.

#3. Addressing Drug and Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol, as well as drugs, can lead to violent crime. Drugs can impair people’s reasoning, prompting them to commit crimes to make money for drugs or boosting illegal drug markets.

Research by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice identified numerous areas where policymakers could intervene to reduce drug-related issues. They could impose a time or location limit on alcohol sales or increase the alcohol tax. They may also fund evidence-based addiction treatment through public health programs such as Medicaid.

Bottom Line

There is a pressing need for law enforcement to respond quickly to violent crime by restoring community confidence. As the pandemic subsides, resuming outreach to at-risk persons will go a long way toward combating crime. Furthermore, identifying the core causes of criminal behavior and devising tactics to address them will aid in the reduction of violent crime.