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Why Homicides Are Trending Down After Pandemic Increase

Commenting on the 12% decline in homicides in nine of the 10 most populous U.S. cities this year over the same time frame last year, local officials and criminologists say conditions that drove the violence up in 2020 and 2021, such as rise in domestic disputes and a pause in gang violence prevention during the pandemic, as well as a pullback in police enforcement after after the George Floyd racial-justice protests, are receding, reports the Wall Street Journal. Last year, the number of killings dropped 5% in 70 of the largest U.S. cities from 2021, says the Major Cities Chiefs Association “Obviously, things got so bad, we’re slowly chipping away at it,” said Danielle Outlaw, Philadelphia police commissioner. Philadelphia reported a record 562 homicides in 2021.

Outlaw said the closing of courts and schools during the early days of the pandemic and the wave of protests calling to defund police departments affected policing. “The narrative was defund and abolish,” she said. “That narrative undermined our credibility and authority.” This year, drug-related killings are down 56% and domestic homicides are down 22% in Philadelphia. Outlaw credited a new team of detectives that investigates all shootings, as well as the return of community antiviolence groups and regular schooling. John Roman of the NORC Economics, Justice and Society Group at the University of Chicago said Americans were disconnected from schools, churches, mentors and counseling, which resulted in more deadly conflicts. As homicides have fallen, other crimes have increased in many cities over the past two years such as robberies and retail thefts. Criminologists have attributed this to the reopening of stores and to more foot traffic in cities after pandemic shutdowns ended. Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, who oversees Los Angeles police detectives, attributed the decline in murders in his city in part to officers’ efforts to target illegal guns. During the pandemic, there was a rise in stolen and trafficked firearms.


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