In 2020, the United States had its largest spike in the homicide rate ever recorded in a single year since 1905, when standardized records began. At the same time that this type of crime increased 30% between 2019 and 2020, assaults and property theft decreased by about 10% each. During 2020, the national homicide rate was 7.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 27.8 in Mexico and 0.9 in the European Union. It should be noted that this rate is also lower than for suicides, with 13.5 deaths per 100,000 people, and much lower than that of drug overdoses, which lies currently at 27.1. Data released this month by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also shows that in the 22 largest cities in the United States the homicide rate in 2021 increased 44% compared to 2019. Some iconic cities on the list include Portland with a 200% increase in homicides, Minneapolis with 100%, Chicago 70%, New York 66%, Philadelphia 60%, and Washington D.C. broke the maximum reached since 2003 with 200 cases and had an increase of 20%. In a special category, Saint Louis, in Missouri, reached a record of 87 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, a rate almost three times higher than for all Central America. The Biden administration and left-wing analysts have attributed this situation to the economic difficulties derived from the pandemic and the increase in the purchase of weapons after the protests over the murder of George Floyd. On the other hand, conservatives and the alt-right attribute it to the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement. Testing all the hypotheses, it is observed that the homicide rate in the United States had a strongly downward trend since 1990, even during the very severe economic crisis of 2007-2008. In addition, during the pandemic, the vast majority of crimes decreased throughout the country, so blaming economic difficulties does not seem to be a good explanation. Regarding weapons, the purchase of these increased from 1990 to date, overlapping with the pronounced reduction in homicides throughout the country that characterized those years, so it does not seem to be a very solid explanation either. Instead, the data show that homicides started to skyrocket during the weeks after the protests began as consequence of the murder of George Floyd, despite the fact that a rise in homicides has traditionally been observed since March with the arrival of spring. On the other hand, in numerous cities where the mayors applied the 'defund the police' policy that Black Lives Matter demanded, homicides increased into a greater extent than in other urban areas. These public policies consisted of reducing the budget allocated to law enforcement, the number of police officers and the tools they can use, and redirecting this money towards social programs. Moreover, it is also true that official working within the judicial system became less prone to impose heavy punishment to the offenders. As a result of these decisions, coupled with a
political rhetoric that constantly spoke of systemic racism, the police substantially reduced their patrols, routine checks, and arrests on the streets. Additionally, many police officers, especially in cities governed by the Democratic party, resigned or decided to retire prematurely, citing unfavorable conditions and little motivation to do their job. The weakening of the police institution in the eyes of public opinion would thus have encouraged people who are already prone to violent crimes, and who see the police as 'guardians of the justice system who cannot even follow the law themselves' , to think like: 'why should I obey myself the law?', and thus feel that they are entitled to commit a homicide.
Regarding the pandemic factor, it is true that the closure of schools and social programs that served to prevent crimes, together with the social distance that made it difficult for the police to be close to citizens, left a vacuum that could have contributed to the increase of homicides in the short term. However, this argument is also very weak since the rest of the countries that also had the same restrictive measures and closure of activities in fact saw their number of homicides reduced, and those fell by 14% globally.
After this wave of violence, supporters of the Democratic party now also support an increase in resources allocated to the police, and this change compared to 2020 has been especially notable among the population of color that lives in the most affected neighborhoods, which now rejects even more the policy of 'defund the police'.
After the recent murder of two police officers in Manhattan, Joe Biden visited New York this Thursday to meet with the new mayor, Eric Adams, who was a police captain in that city and president of the Brooklyn borough, to declare that the solution to this wave of violence are not these proposals like 'defund the police', but quite the contrary. The political and academic consensus dictates that in reality what is needed is a police force that is active, close and has a tight collaboration with the social services of a community. The results of this approach have proven to be very successful throughout the world, especially in the United States and very notoriously in New York City.