Posted on June 4, 2021

Officials Worry the Rise in Violent Crime Portends a Bloody Summer

Holly Bailey and Tim Craig, Washington Post, May 30, 2021

The mayor of Albany never expected to spend her days attending funerals and comforting the families of those killed and injured in a spate of alarming gun violence she finds hard to explain.

“It shocks the conscience,” said Kathy M. Sheehan (D). {snip}

Eight people have been fatally shot in New York’s capital city this year, including six in May. Recently, Destiny Greene, 15, was killed in a quiet neighborhood a block from the governor’s mansion after a group of men opened fire during what police later said had been a meetup over a Facebook Marketplace ad.

Albany’s violent crime spike isn’t an outlier. Last weekend, at least 12 mass shootings occurred across nine states, killing 11 people and injuring at least 70, according to a database compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that tracks such incidents.

The carnage included a shooting outside a nightclub in Minneapolis, which killed two and injured eight. Another two were killed and a dozen injured when shots were fired at a house party in Fairfield Township, N.J., and three were killed in a shooting outside a bar in Youngstown, Ohio.

And this weekend, two people were killed and more than 20 injured in the Miami area after men with assault rifles and handguns began “shooting indiscriminately into a crowd” at a concert early Sunday, police said.


Sheehan said she was particularly disturbed by the way incidents of random anger and conflict seem to be escalated by the increased presence of guns. “What we seem to be seeing is that solving disputes with guns is becoming normalized,” she said.


Scores of cities across the country have reported double-digit increases in shootings and homicides. In Columbus, Ohio, police have counted at least 80 homicides this year, more than double the same period last year. Bigger cities also continue to see increases. In Chicago, 195 people had been killed as of early May, the highest number in at least four years, according to police statistics. Nearly 1,300 people had been shot, according to a Chicago Tribune database that tracks such incidents.

In Atlanta, the homicide rate is up 50 percent over this time last year, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) said she and her police commanders have been struggling to come up with concise reasons as they brace for a potentially rough summer.


Bottoms said the “common denominator” for the crime wave is stress from the pandemic and last year’s racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd. {snip}


Last week, President Biden proposed allocating $2.1 billion to fund Justice Department efforts to address the nation’s “gun violence public health crisis.” That’s in addition to his proposal in March to spend $5 billion over eight years on community violence prevention efforts to try to prevent violent crime.

But Bottoms and other local officials nationwide have pressed the White House to do even more — including increasing funding for mental health, substance abuse and behavioral health programs. Some of the Atlanta region’s most horrific recent crimes, Bottoms noted, have occurred during incidents of possible road rage where assailants appear to suddenly snap and shoot at another motorist.


{snip} In New York City, more than 500 people have been shot this year — the highest number in a decade and up more than 50 percent over the same period in 2020. But Jeffrey Butts, director of the research and evaluation center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that percentage was better than the 158 percent increase in shootings reported last fall in the city, suggesting that the surge in violence, while still up, may be declining.

Still, Butts said that the factors that drove last year’s violence are unlikely to subside anytime soon, even as cities and states slowly loosen pandemic restrictions. Neighborhoods hit hard by job losses and other economic disparities are still likely to struggle, and the sense of alienation and anger that has been behind some of the violence is unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.

“I worry about the generational effect,” Butts said, pointing to research about the lasting impact the crack epidemic had on residents of neighborhoods most affected by that era of violence.