(NEXSTAR) – The year 2021 was the deadliest in U.S. history, thanks mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic – but the homicide rate has also soared in several cities since 2020, a new study found.
The most recent available data from the government shows a 35% jump in gun homicides from 2019 to 2020, when 19,384 people were killed. WalletHub used local crime statistics and U.S. Census Bureau data to compare homicide rates in the first quarter of each year of the pandemic, including 2022.
The study calculated homicide rate increases over the course of the pandemic and found that New Orleans had the highest, followed by Cincinnati, Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, Milwaukee, Louisville, Norfolk, Detroit and Dallas.
Columbus was among the 50 cities with the highest homicide rate increase over the course of the pandemic.
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 during the height of the pandemic last year when people were confined to their homes and criminal activity generally had decreased, homicides increased.”
In times of financial stress or anxiety, gun sales tend to strengthen, Lewis said, as does violence and racial hostility. But with the pandemic, a new stressor may have affected the high homicide numbers.
“This increase could be attributed to the rise in domestic violence,” Lewis said. “Because people were confined to their homes, domestic violence victims were forced to shelter in place with their abusers and had nowhere to run. Also, being confined to one’s home coupled with the emotional and financial stress from the pandemic also probably exacerbated some people’s mental illness, which might have led to more violence.”
President Joe Biden addressed community violence during his State of the Union address, vowing to keep neighborhoods safe by cracking down on illegal guns, equipping police officers and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Despite the rising levels of deadly gun violence, most Americans won’t likely give officers more leeway when it comes to how they do their jobs, says Matthew Hale, associate professor and MPA program chair for Seton Hall’s Department of Political Science and Public Affairs.
“Police reputations are earned over time and destroyed in an instant,” Hale said. “Rising crime likely means that some people will think about giving the police more latitude. But that is only at the margins. People want police to protect them and not to unjustly kill civilians. That does not change with a rising crime rate.”