Despite a slight dip in big-city gun violence overall, some of the worst trouble spots see violence persisting for a third summer since the 2020 surge, dashing hopes that 2020-21 violence would prove to be a short-lived blip, NPR reports. Homicides overall remain elevated from pre-pandemic levels and 40 percent of the cities reporting their latest numbers see homicides still trending higher. Among the hardest-hit cities: Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Portland, Or.
The nature of the violence has changed since the last big surge 30 years ago. "The '90s was more gang-oriented, there was much more organized, sort of targeted shootings," says Elyne Vaught, a prosecutor in King County, Wa., who is part of a program called "Shots Fired," which counts and categorizes illegal shootings in a county that includes Seattle. "Today, it's petty offenses, petty conflicts, reckless shootings." Police around the country have noticed this trend. A new report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association points to "incidents of individuals indiscriminately shooting into large crowds while discharging massive amounts of ammunition," such as the April mass shooting in downtown Sacramento. Temple University criminologist Jason Gravel, who studies how young people acquire and use guns, says the role of social media may be the biggest change of the last few recent years. "It might look like some random shooting on the street, but if that was preceded by a bunch of verbal threats online or in social media, you don't see the first part of the conflict, you just see the end result," Gravel says.