Posted on October 15, 2020

Crime Rose Unevenly When Stay-at-Home Orders Lifted

John D. Harden and Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, October 9, 2020

Police found Alani Hutchins, 16, slain in a car in June. A stray bullet hit Michael Goodlow III, 4, in the head on the Fourth of July. Someone shot Victrail Mora, 14, in the back of the head near the steps to his mother’s apartment on Aug. 12.

At least 17 children have died violently in St. Louis this year, a tally that has shocked residents and underscored a widening racial crime disparity in that city and others amid the coronavirus pandemic. As the upward trajectory of crime continues, the gulf between the rates of violence in Black and White communities widened by 106 percent in the nation’s largest cities.

A Washington Post analysis of 27 cities showed the rolling rate of violent crime in majority-White neighborhoods fell by 30 percent while stay-at-home orders were in effect, dipping to its lowest point in two years. Once the orders were lifted, violent crime in those neighborhoods returned to pre-pandemic levels, but stayed below average when compared with 2018 and 2019.

In majority-Black neighborhoods, the rate of violence remained relatively steady while stay-at-home orders were in effect, but rose dramatically after orders were lifted, peaking at 133 crimes per 100,000 residents in July, the highest level in the past three years.

Crime in White and Black neighborhoods fluctuates month-to-month, historically spiking in summer. But this year, the rate of increase in Black neighborhoods has been most dramatic, peaking higher than in 2018 and 2019 by about 10 and 8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, violent crime rates in predominantly Asian, Hispanic and White neighborhoods have fluttered beneath their recent summer peaks.

The analysis examined more than 800,000 crimes in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle. To arrive at its findings, The Post analyzed data from police departments, then merged geocoded reports with neighborhood income and demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The crimes analyzed include homicide, sexual assault and rape, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, theft, auto theft and thefts from vehicles.

The analysis shows crime rates dropped in March after stay-at-home orders were imposed to combat the pandemic. Rates flattened in April, but when orders began to lift in May, violent crime rose in majority-Black neighborhoods, surging past levels in 2018 and 2019.


President Trump and some Republicans have seized upon violence and occasional looting that followed the shooting of a Black man by Kenosha, Wis., police and the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers to portray cities as dangerously chaotic and Democratic leaders as ineffectual at restoring order.

Trump has also linked a rise in homicides in a number of big cities to the Floyd protests and activists’ efforts to cut funding for police departments… {snip}


{snip} Deeauna Mora, the aunt of Victrail Mora in St. Louis, said that when he was shot and killed, the family already was grappling with the teen’s father, who is incarcerated, having contracted the coronavirus.

Deeauna Mora describes herself as a moderate Democrat who supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but said she was also in favor of federal agents being deployed to St. Louis to help combat crime. {snip}


Children with gunshot wounds are arriving in unprecedented numbers at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, carried by wailing ambulances or cradled in the arms of desperate parents. The hospital has already treated 114 children through Oct. 8 — more than all of 2019 — and the onslaught shows no sign of slowing amid a surging murder rate.

Lindsay Clukies, co-director of emergency medical services at the hospital, said the average age of victims is dropping and that more are arriving with high-caliber gunshot wounds. In July, she treated an infant hit by a bullet. More than 90 percent of the victims this year have been Black.


{snip} While serious crime is down slightly overall, through mid-August homicides were up 34 percent compared with 2019, according to St. Louis police. But the toll has fallen unevenly across the city.

In mid-March, ahead of stay-at-home orders in the city, majority-Black neighborhoods were averaging about one homicide every four days. By the end of July, those same neighborhoods were averaging about two homicides a day. Meanwhile, the rate of homicides in White-majority neighborhoods in St. Louis held stable, at about one every seven days.


The Post’s analysis of the 27 cities showed that the rolling rate of violent crime in majority-White neighborhoods fell from 31 crimes per 100,000 residents in mid-March to 21 in early May, when stay-at-home orders were in effect. Crime in majority-Black neighborhoods increased slightly during that time, from 62 to 64 incidents.

But as stay-at-home orders were lifted, crime rates began to rise.

In the third week stay-at-home orders were in effect in Boston, 17-year-old Alissa King was found dead, lying in blood at a residential intersection in the Dorchester neighborhood, where she lived with her mother.

The Post analysis shows that crime rose in the community, which has a plurality of Black residents, as it declined citywide. King’s neighborhood saw its crime rate nearly double, based on Boston police data, between the implementation of stay-at-home orders and the time she was allegedly killed by a former friend.


As part of its analysis, The Post analyzed crime in 2018 and 2019 to see how current trends compare with recent years. The analysis found that the disparity between violent crime in White and Black neighborhoods is wider than it’s been at any time during that period.


In Chicago, police spokesman Howard Ludwig said officers were told to limit contact with the public and focus on violent offenders to slow the spread of the virus. According to the department, the three police districts with the most criminal complaints are within predominantly minority communities on the city’s south and west sides.


Victrail Mora was babysitting his sister in his mother’s apartment in St. Louis’s Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood when he heard a knock at the door on Aug. 12, said Deeauna Mora. The teen went outside to investigate and was shot in the back of the head.


Victrail was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police have not released a motive in the shooting or announced arrests. The slaying marked a “grim milestone,” as a TV news segment put it later — St. Louis had eclipsed the number of slayings of children for all of 2019, and it was just August.


St. Louis police Capt. Renee Kriesmann said the pandemic, protests and unrest that followed Floyd’s killing fundamentally reshaped policing and crime in the city.


Kriesmann said the drop in crime after the pandemic was noticeable, but she called violence that erupted following the Floyd protests on June 1 a “turning point.” Early the next morning, four police officers were shot and dozens of businesses were looted.

Kriesmann said it’s likely that the uptick in crime that came during the summer was partially driven by weeks of looting and unrest. She said officers were also pulled away from their regular beats to work protests and guard shops during that period. {snip}