Pandemic Blamed as Cleveland Crime Rises

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The number of homicides and injuries from gun violence in Cleveland continues to climb compared to recent years, including a particularly violent July 4 weekend. In years past, law enforcement attributed rising crime rates to everything from a poorly-funded police department to sweltering temperatures, reports This year, with all of its anxiety, civil strife and political upheaval, brings a new explanation to explain rising crime rates: the coronavirus. After July 4, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams and Mayor Frank Jackson attributed the sharp rise in violence partly to the pandemic. Dan Flannery of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research Education at Case Western Reserve University says, “People have been cooped up for quite a while, and more people are literally back out on the streets, so there’s more opportunity for something to happen.”

Twenty-seven people suffered gunshot wounds, and three died during the Fourth of July weekend. Ten people were shot during the same weekend in 2019. There have been 91 homicides in Cleveland this year compared with 68 last year. Non-fatal shootings are up 35 percent. Criminologist Bryanna Fox of the University of South Florida, a former FBI agent, says, “People act out more aggressively in general during times of stress. Environmental stressors increase the likelihood that we act out more aggressively or violently than if we were a better version of ourselves, where we could take a step back or walk away.” Cleveland already had problems with poverty and police-community mistrust before coronavirus concerns emerged. One-third of Cleveland residents and half of the city’s children live in poverty. The Cleveland Police Department remains under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice to reform the department, in part because of a pattern of police misconduct towards residents.

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