A sharp rise in homicides is hitting large cities across the U.S., signaling a public-safety risk unleashed during the coronavirus pandemic amid recession and a national backlash against police tactics. The murder rate is low compared with previous decades, and other types of serious crime have dropped. Still, researchers and police fear the homicide spike could threaten an urban renaissance after more than two decades of declining crime. A Wall Street Journal analysis of crime statistics in the 50 largest cities found reported homicides up 24 percent so far this year, to 3,612. Shootings and gun violence also rose, even though other violent crimes such as robbery fell. Among factors cited: Institutions that keep communities safe have been destabilized by lockdown and protests against police. Tensions are running high and streets have been emptied of eyes and ears on their communities. Some note an increase in gang violence.
Some cities with long-running crime problems saw their numbers rise, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Memphis. Less-violent places have been struck as well, such as Omaha and Phoenix. In all, 36 of the 50 cities studied saw homicide rise at double-digit rates, representing all regions. “I was surprised at the consistency of the increase across all of the different cities,” said Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Although homicides increased, reported robberies were down 11 percent in 41 cities. Robberies, burglaries and rapes are down because more people stayed home during lockdowns, leaving fewer prospective victims on the streets, in bars or other public places. Burglars weren’t likely to break into homes filled with people. Homicides may be up because violent criminals have been emboldened by the sidelining of police, courts, schools, churches and an array of other social institutions.