(NEXSTAR) — 2021 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, largely thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic — but the homicide rate has also skyrocketed in several cities since 2020, according to a new study.
The latest available government data shows a jump of 35% in firearm homicides from 2019 to 2020, when 19,384 people were killed. WalletHub used local crime statistics and US Census Bureau data to compare homicide rates in the first quarter of each year of the pandemic, including 2022.
The study calculated increases in the homicide rate during the pandemic and found that New Orleans had the highest rate, followed by Cincinnati, Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, Milwaukee, Louisville, Norfolk, Detroit and Dallas.
The 10 lowest were San Francisco, Chandler, Riverside, Austin, Charlotte, Sacramento, Garland, Omaha, Boston, Madison and Lincoln.
“Alarmingly, but not surprisingly, the crime with the biggest increase is homicide,” said Shaundra Kellan Lewis, a law professor at Texas Southern University. “Even at the height of the pandemic last year, when people were confined to their homes and criminal activity generally declined, homicides increased.”
In times of financial stress or anxiety, gun sales tend to go up, Lewis said, as do violence and racial hostility. But with the pandemic, a new stressor may have affected the high number of homicides.
“This increase could be attributed to the increase in domestic violence,” Lewis said. “Because people were confined to their homes, victims of domestic violence were forced to shelter in place with their abusers and had nowhere to run. Additionally, being confined to their homes, associated with stress emotional and financial impact of the pandemic, likely exacerbated some people’s mental illness, which could have led to more violence.
President Joe Biden tackled communal violence during his State of the Union address, pledging to keep neighborhoods safe by cracking down on illegal guns, equipping police officers, and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Despite rising levels of deadly gun violence, most Americans are unlikely to give officers more latitude in how they do their jobs, says Matthew Hale, associate professor and MPA program director for the Department. in Political Science and Public Affairs from Seton Hall.
“Police reputations are earned over time and destroyed in an instant,” Hale said. “Rising crime probably means some people will think about giving the police more leeway. But this is only at the margin. People want the police to protect them and not unjustly kill civilians. That doesn’t change with a rising crime rate.