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COVID-19 Gets the Blame for Homicide Increases

Like many cities where economies have been ravaged by the pandemic Oakland, Ca., has seen a surge in gun violence, including six killings of juveniles since June and a 40 percent increase in homicides overall. In Los Angeles, the picture is equally bloody, with the city on pace to have more than 300 homicides for the first time since 2009. Major cities from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to New York, and even smaller communities like Lubbock, Tx., and Lexington, Ky., are all confronting the same grim pattern, with some places, like Kansas City and Indianapolis, setting records for the number of killings in a single year, reports the New York Times. Philadelphia is among the cities with the highest increase — its 404 killings this year are a 40 percent increase from last year.

Criminologists point to the effects the pandemic has had on everything from mental health to policing amid social distancing, with fewer officers able to perform the up-close-and-personal community outreach work that in normal times has helped mitigate violence. Aside from the destabilizing effects of the pandemic, the street protests over racial injustice after the killing of George Floyd may have contributed to the rise in homicides, said criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri St. Louis. Jeff Asher, a crime analyst in New Orleans, said the rise in killings was hitting all corners of the country. He pointed out several Republican-led cities that have seen sharp upticks: Lubbock, Tx., which has seen 22 homicides, compared with nine in the same period last year; Lexington, where homicides are up 40 percent; and Miami, where homicides have risen nearly 30 percent. “Because the stresses of the pandemic are everywhere, you are seeing this everywhere,” he said.