The recent rise in homicides around the U.S. is more nuanced than it appears, says a new report from the Brookings Institution. Rather than a widespread dispersal of gun violence, the increases in gun homicides are largely concentrated in disinvested and structurally disadvantaged neighborhoods that had high rates of gun violence to begin with. This geographic concentration is a persistent challenge, not a new one—and it requires targeted solutions to improve outcomes in disinvested places rather than reverting to the old “tough on crime” playbook, Brookings argues. Its paper takes a deeper look at patterns of gun violence in four cities—Chicago; Nashville, Kansas City and Baltimore—finding that each city’s gun homicide increases were driven predominantly by increases in neighborhoods where gun violence "has long been a persistent fixture of daily life, alongside systemic disinvestment, segregation, and economic inequality."
These patterns point to the need to address the place-based factors that influence violence and invest in the critical community infrastructure that has not only been proved to make communities safer, but can also help them thrive. Between 2019 and 2020, while homicides rose nearly 30 percent, overall crime rates declined by five percent. This divergence matters because homicides and crime usually rise or decline together and, homicides require different kinds of interventions than other crimes. Unlike the last major uptick of homicides in 2015, which was heavily concentrated in a small set of big cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C, the recent rise is more widespread, affecting small and large cities and blue and red cities and states alike.