New York and Washington D.C., both marked grim milestones in violence this weekend.
A weekend mass shooting that wounded 21 and killed one signaled a 45 percent increase in shootings in Washington, D.C., this year over the same period last year, including 46 shootings in the past week, the Washington Post reports.
And New York City saw its 1,000th shooting victim of 2020 over the weekend, making this year’s number of shootings and gun violence victims about equal to the previous two years combined, ABC7 reported.
The figures are part of a troubling surge in violence across the country that criminologists, police and community activists tie to the effects of COVID-19. Others argue that police have pulled back in response to the wave of calls for defunding and attacks on police use of force.
“I’m sure there will be academic studies for years to come as to what caused the spike of 2020,” said Tim Garrison, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, the New York Times reported.
“I’m sure the lockdown didn’t help. When you already have a stressed economic situation and you put a lot of folks out of work, and a lot of teenagers out of school, it’s a volatile situation.”
However, in many cities, the murder rate was on the rise before the pandemic, and a steep decline in arrests coincided with the start of social distancing, as measured by mobile phone records, according to a database compiled by David Abrams, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania law school.
Some experts have pointed to the pandemic’s destabilization of community institutions, or theorized that people with a propensity for violence may have been less likely to heed stay-at-home orders. But in city after city, crime overall is down, including all types of major crime except murder, aggravated assault and in some places, car theft.
“People have gotten to the point where they just don’t give a damn,” said Rev. Darren Faulkner, who runs a Kansas City program that provides social support to those deemed most at risk of violence.
“I don’t care about me. I certainly don’t care about you. And so I can go shoot your house or shoot you right on the spot because you talked to me crazy, you looked at me crazy.”
Nevertheless, New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea saw signs of progress, noting the 41 shooting incidents this past week in his city were down from the 50s and 60s at the height of the spike in gun violence.
“If you look at the last four weeks, we’ve been trending down,” he said. “But still far too many, to be frank. The work is coming, the cases are coming, our partners are certainly helping. It’s moving in the right direction, but it’s going to take some time.”
In Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham held a press conference where the mayor decried the violence and said residents “are desperate to find solutions.”
Authorities on Monday updated several details about the mass shooting Sunday, upping the total number of victims to 22, as additional victims who took themselves to hospitals were located, and the number of bullets fired from nearly 100 to more than 100.
Police also said they now suspect four shooters took part in an exchange of gunfire, up from three they had said earlier. Newsham said one firearm has been recovered, but no arrests have been made. The shootings took place in the Greenway neighborhood at an annual cookout that attracted hundreds of residents.
The family of the teen who was killed complained that police did not break up the party considering it violated the mayor’s orders prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.