Posted on July 9, 2020

Exhausted Cities Face Another Challenge: a Surge in Violence

Tom Hays and Colleen Long, Associated Press, July 8, 2020

Still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and street protests over the police killing of George Floyd, exhausted cities around the nation are facing yet another challenge: a surge in shootings that has left dozens dead, including young children.

The spike defies easy explanation, experts say, pointing to the toxic mix of issues facing America in 2020: an unemployment rate not seen in a generation, a pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 people, stay-at-home orders, rising anger over police brutality, intense stress, even the weather.


Police officials in New York City and elsewhere say the recent bloodshed has shown there are consequences to some reforms they see as misguided, particularly on bail reform, enacted before the protests happened but exacerbated by the moment.

Emboldened criminals feel “that the cops can’t do anything anymore, that no one likes the police, that they can get away with things, that it’s safe to carry a gun out on the street,” New York Police Department Chief Terence Monahan said this week.

Monahan’s remarks came after a holiday weekend that saw a wave of shootings leaving 10 dead. Through Sunday, shootings were up more than 53% — to 585 — so far this year.

The recent spasm of violence was captured in a New York Post headline about a crime-ravaged city crying out for help. It was nearly identical to one that ran 30 years ago — when there were more than 2,000 murders a year. But crime has been declining for more than a decade — there were about 300 last year.

Crime has spiked in other major cities, too. In Dallas, violent crime increased more than 14% from April to June. In Philadelphia, homicides were up 20% for the week ending July 5 over last year at this time. In Atlanta, 31 people were shot over the weekend, five fatally, compared with seven shootings and one killing over the same week in 2019.

Some police unions say officers just aren’t doing their jobs over fear of being charged with crime.


Reform advocates say blaming a spike on the necessary push for police reform ignores the root causes of crime and the progress of the movement.


Like New York, Chicago had already seen an increase in homicides and shootings in the first part of the year. But while the violence tapered off in New York under stay-at-home orders, shootings in Chicago remained steady, likely because of gang warfare, said Wesley Skogan, who studies crime at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

Seventeen people were fatally shot in Chicago and 70 wounded, one of the bloodiest holiday weekends in memory there.

Gangs “are not particularly deterred by the risks of being out there,” Skogan said. “Of all the things they are likely to be worried about, COVID is way down the list.”