Crime in America has risen sharply since the onset of the pandemic; however, lately a rash of “smash-and-grab” robberies in places such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York are making headlines. However, one of the most startling headlines has to do with the increased murder rate in a number of American cities. According to the New York Post, at least a dozen major American cities have seen record-breaking numbers of murders in 2021 – with three weeks left to go in the year.
As of December 7, Philadelphia has recorded 523 murders in 2021. This breaks the city’s highest murder count of 500 homicides, set in 1990. New York has seen 443 murders up until December 2021. ABC News published findings showing that the following cities had seen previous homicide rates broken during the 2021 calendar year:
- Columbus, OH
- Baton Rouge, LA
- Louisville, KY
- Indianapolis, IN
- Austin, TX
- Albuquerque, NM
- Portland, OR
- St. Paul, MN
- Rochester, NY
- Toledo, OH
- Tucson, AZ
Each of these cities is run by a Democratic mayor. However, the party in power generally has little or no effect on the rate of crime in a major city.
The New York Post reports that violent crime has surged in New York City during the 2020 year as well as in 2021. However, police data shows that the rate of violent crime today tops the city’s infamous crime rate of the 1990s. FBI data shows that crime in 2020 rose by 30 percent when compared to crime in 2019. Chicago has seen 753 murders during 2021; ranking the city first in the national homicide rate. Chicago is also seeing a rash of smash-and-grab robberies, something Mayor Lori Lightfoot said is the fault of local retailers. At a press conference earlier this week, Lightfoot expressed “disappointment” that local retailers did not employ more security at their places of business.
Just who or what is to blame when it comes to this sharp increase in the number of homicides and other violent crimes across the nation? According to some criminologists, the increase is the result of one of several things:
- pandemic-related stress
- racial conflicts exacerbated by the murder of George Floyd
- the subsequent retirement of police officers en masse
- criminals having too much time on their hands
However, many conservatives cite policies in New York, such as no cash bail, or California’s new law making theft of property under $950 a misdemeanor as the impetus behind these increased crime rates. Let’s examine both sides of the issue to determine better what is causing the sharp uptick in criminal activity.
Has the pandemic really created the crime wave?
The answer to this question depends on whom an individual asks. Democratic leaders in New York and Washington – even Jen Psaki mentioned earlier this week in a correspondent briefing – that the pandemic is the chief driver of this uptick in violent crime. However, Conservatives point out that defund the police measures, the implementation of no cash bail or a change in the way shoplifting his charged has contributed chiefly to the rising crime rate.
In 2020, approximately 900,000 New Yorkers lost their jobs. The homicide rate did increase in the city by 30 percent from 2019, prior to the pandemic. However, this does not explain the spike in crime in 2021. About half that number is still unemployed in New York; only 436,000 are out of work currently. Public schools are open once more, and New York is full of “now hiring” signs.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has blamed the spike in violent crime on people who were out of work, starving, and simply looking for a way to procure food. However, the New York Post reports that there has not been one incident where a person with no prior criminal record turned to murder during the pandemic. In fact, when one looks at many of the violent crimes that have taken place in the Big Apple and other major cities, one will understand that many of these individuals had lengthy rap sheets prior to the pandemic.
Earlier this year, a Philadelphia woman was raped on a subway by a man who had multiple arrests dating back to 2015. He was later determined to be in the United States illegally, but was never deported after his criminal convictions. One of his priors was a conviction for sexual abuse.
In New York, a mentally ill individual pushed a woman off the subway platform, injuring her severely. The attacker has a history of committing assaults on others during mental episodes, as was documented by police. However, she was free pending charges on a different assault.
One alleged murderer who killed a nurse in Times Square in mid-October had recently been arrested for stalking and sexual assault. He was freed without bail after his arrest; within two weeks, he allegedly murdered Maria Ambrocio by violently shoving her.
Violent crime taking place on public transportation, namely the New York subway system, is double the 2019 rate. Many of the individuals perpetrating these crimes have long rap sheets listing similar crimes.
The FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report is evidence many Conservatives are citing when it comes to showing that defunding the police has caused an uptick in crime rates. The report shows that the 2020 crime rate (remember, this rose 30 percent from 2019) showed the sharpest uptick in the summer months – right after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent calls for defunding the police.
The report cites Milwaukee as an example. The city fired its tough-on-crime police chief, and within one month, the mayor of the city proposed cutting 120 law enforcement positions. Wisconsin saw a seventy percent increase in its homicide rate from 2019 to 2020; eighty percent of the victims did not know their assailant, and domestic violence was only to blame in twenty percent of cases.
Nationally, only seven percent of violent crimes were domestic in nature; the bulk of them are stranger-on-stranger assaults.
These numbers swelled during the summer of 2020, again, most likely a result of the unrest and tamping down of law enforcement following George Floyd’s death.
Although the pandemic may be to blame in some way for the recent crime surge, Democratic leaders who are putting forth soft-on-crime policies such as no cash bail or defund the police are the true cause of the spike in crime. Only when leaders allow law enforcement to do their jobs will the surge decrease; furthermore, those with histories of violent crime should not be allowed to leave jail where history shows they will likely offend again.
Criminal reform should and must take place; however, cutting law enforcement numbers is not the approach, nor is allowing those who are violent criminals to walk out of jail without paying the slightest bond.