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  • People take part in a rally held in downtown San Francisco to urge the federal government and lawmakers in Congress to take action to control gun-related crimes, August 17, 2019.

    People take part in a rally held in downtown San Francisco to urge the federal government and lawmakers in Congress to take action to control gun-related crimes, August 17, 2019. | Photo: Xinhua/Li Jianguo

Published 3 August 2020
Opinion

Surveys in the U.S. 50 largest cities revealed that homicides increased by 24 percent so far this year amid the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Homicides have increased by 24 percent this year in the United States, according to an analysis published Monday by the Wall Street Journal following surveys in the 50 largest cities.

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Amid the escalation of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 3,612 criminal episodes were reported throughout 2020, according to the study. Shooting and armed violence also increased, although the homicide rate remains low compared to previous decades, and other violent crimes such as robbery decreased.

Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis are some cities with long-standing crime problems that increased their numbers. Chicago is the most affected, recording more than one of every eight homicides. These also hit less violent places, such as Omaha, Nebraska, and Phoenix.

In total, 36 of the 50 U.S. cities studied experienced an increase in homicides at double-digit rates, representing all regions of the country.

Police, investigators, mayors, and some residents see a confluence of forces working on the homicide peak, according to the surveys.

The lockdown and the anti-racist protests destabilized the institutions that keep the city's communities safe. The blockades and the recession also mean that tensions are increasing even as the streets are emptied.

On the other hand, police forces in many departments detailed that robberies and rapes dropped so far this year in the U.S. because more people stayed home during the COVID-19 blockades, leaving fewer potential victims on the streets, in bars or other public places.

Police also say that increases in homicides mainly affect low-income communities. In contrast, some researchers say the upward trend in murders may be evidence of a breakdown in social order due to the pandemic.

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