Nearly seven weeks have passed since George Floyd was killed on May 25 while in police custody. Viral video of his death sparked nationwide protests, civil unrest, and accelerated efforts for systemic, transformational changes to America’s criminal justice system.
But as Black Lives Matter-inspired calls to “defund the police” and “reimagine public safety” went mainstream, several major U.S. cities simultaneously experienced an increase in murders and gun violence.
Although it is not conclusive why homicide rates and shootings have soared in so many places, experts acknowledge several possible contributing factors in addition to the recent protests. Most cite the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused financial strain, record unemployment, and might have escalated domestic disputes related to stay-at-home orders. Others mention gang feuds, changes in pretrial detention, or a growing mistrust of police. Academics note that gun violence typically increases in the warmer, summer months. While some question whether cops are reluctant to do their jobs nowadays.
As murder rates and gun violence in big cities continue to be on the rise, President Donald Trump has made the future of public safety a campaign issue. His team recently released an ad that claims, “Joe Biden’s supporters are fighting to defund police departments,” while “violent crime has exploded.” The spot mocks the concept of defunding law enforcement agencies and suggests social turmoil has made the country more dangerous. “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” it warns.
Joe Biden's allies are doing everything they can to Defund the Police.
If you call 911, who will answer the phone?
You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America. pic.twitter.com/ieEMcklTaq
— Team Trump (Text VOTE to 88022) (@TeamTrump) July 2, 2020
Here are six major cities that have experienced spikes in homicides and gun violence as recent uprisings against police misconduct and racial injustice gained momentum.
In Minneapolis, where Mr. Floyd died under the knee of a cop, leaders unanimously approved a motion that would allow for the dismantling of the city’s police force.
Meanwhile, the Star Tribune recently reported that the city has experienced “a surge in gun violence,” adding, the increase was “becoming a political litmus test” for elected officials supporting efforts to defund law enforcement.
On Friday night, residents marched through the city calling on their neighbors to put the “guns down” and the “love up.”
Sending my condolences to the victim’s family and loved ones.
Tragically, another child will grow up without their parent due to the gun violence epidemic in this country.
Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need real action to end gun violence.
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) July 6, 2020
At least 111 people had been shot in the four weeks that followed Floyd’s death. Toward the end of June, the outlet reported 190 individuals had been shot within city limits – up 47% from last year at that time.
“We are having people settle their disputes by picking up a gun and shooting,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Erica MacDonald hosted a meeting about two weeks ago with nine local and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
KSTP News reported that authorities who attended decided “to send a strong message to the bad guys who are shooting up the city.” They devised a tactical plan that targets specific individuals, such as gang members, rather than neighborhoods.
Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson referenced a “partnership” between local authorities and the feds, who work behind the scenes focusing on intelligence gathering and case building for federal criminal prosecution, charges that carry harsher penalties than state crimes.
Minneapolis has had at least 32 murders this year, according to recent reports. The Star Tribune noted, that tally is “twice as many homicides as it had at this time last year,” adding, “five of which have occurred in the month of July.”
2. New York
Residents occupied an intersection in Harlem over the weekend that has been the site of several recent shootings. They held a prayer vigil near the intersection of Lenox Avenue and 143rd Street. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio attended and said the gathering was “very moving.”
NO ONE IS SAFE
Young dad holding daughter's hand — shot, killed in broad daylight — among victims in NYC's weekend slaughterhttps://t.co/XMqyqtWWRA
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) July 7, 2020
The New York Times recently reported that shootings throughout the five boroughs have been “rising for the past 10 weeks, with each week more violent than the previous one,” and:
Over the (July 4 holiday) weekend, 64 people were shot in New York City. Ten of those shot, including a young father who was crossing a Bronx street with this 6-year-old daughter, died.
For the first time since 2016, the city surpassed 400 shootings in the first half of the year, police said. There were 528 at the end of last month – after the worst June since 1996.
The surge of gun violence has shaken a city that was already on edge, with some people raising concerns that the crisis has been overshadowed by the pandemic and the protest movement that was ignited by the killing of George Floyd.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said the July 4 holiday was “one of the most violent weekends we’ve had in recent history,” adding, “It’s quite obvious a lot of people are walking around with guns.”
Monahan says criminals believe “that 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.”
Recent NYPD data indicates “there was a 130% increase in the number of shooting incidents across the city” last month. Homicides were up 21% in NYC for the first half of the year, while gun violence increased 46%. The rise in shootings started in March at the beginning of New York’s coronavirus lockdown.
“I’m sick of it. I’m tired of it,” Erikka Gordon, the aunt of two brothers who were recently shot and killed in two separate incidents, told WLS. “We talk about Black Lives Matter, but I’m sick and tired of what’s going on in these streets.”
According to The Washington Post, “homicides and shooting victims both went up the first half of 2020 over last year. By the start of July, the city had at least 329 homicides and more than 1,600 shooting victims.”
While Chicago was roiled by another day of protests and looting in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, 18 people were killed Sunday, May 31, making it the single most violent day in the city's modern history. https://t.co/NU4yy9FqX8
— Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) June 8, 2020
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the city experienced its deadliest 24-hour period in at least sixty years on Memorial Day weekend:
While Chicago was roiled by another day of protests and looting in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, 18 people were killed Sunday, May 31, making it the single most violent day in Chicago in six decades, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab. The lab’s data doesn’t go back further than 1961.
From 7 pm Friday, May 29, through 5 am Monday, June 1, 25 people were killed in the city, with another 85 wounded by gunfire, according to data maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We’ve never seen anything like it, at all,” said Max Kapustin, the senior research director at the University of Chicago Crime lab, in an interview with the outlet.
The violence continued into through the Fourth of July holiday weekend, when at least 87 people were shot. Seventeen individuals were killed, including some children.
“We cannot allow this to be normalized in this city,” said David Brown, Chicago’s police superintendent. “We cannot get used to hearing about children being gunned down in Chicago every weekend.”
NBC affiliate WAVE 3 News recently reported that “the numbers of shootings and homicides in Louisville are on track to break the city’s record,” adding, “the city has seen a 40% increase in murders and a 107% rise in non-fatal shootings when compared to this time last year.”
CRIME SPIKE | The numbers of shootings and homicides in Louisville are on track to break the city’s record. As of Tuesday, the city has seen a 40% increase in murders and a 107% percent rise in non-fatal shootings when compared to this time last year. https://t.co/QJ5fpBzY6F
— wave3news (@wave3news) July 8, 2020
According to that report, 40% of the shootings in Louisville this year occurred since May 28, when civil unrest in the city began. Gunfire erupted at a demonstration downtown, and seven people were wounded. Protesters had gathered demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was fatally shot in her home by three white police officers in March. It was the same night rioters in Minneapolis burned down a police station over the Floyd killing.
A month later, multiple shots were fired at a demonstration in Jefferson Square Park, where several participants had erected a tent city camp. On June 27, a man shot two of the protesters, killing one. Bystanders returned fire, shooting the man in the leg. He was arrested and charged with murder and first-degree wanton endangerment. Police cleared the park and said protesters could no longer stay there overnight. Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer issued a statement saying it was “a tragedy that this area of peaceful protest is now a crime scene.”
5. Los Angeles
Peaceful protests in Los Angeles turned violent on the night of May 29, as looting and vandalism continued for days. According to LAPD, homicides rose 250% in the week that followed, while shootings had increased 56% compared to the previous week.
From June 7 to July 4, LAPD South Bureau saw 65 shooting victims & 12 homicides. Compared to the previous 28 days, this equates to a respective 92% & 140% increase. We must work together to stop this violence.
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) July 9, 2020
The L.A. Times recently reported that homicides and gun violence have been on the rise, noting 19 murders in the city between June 21 and July 5. LAPD’s South Bureau saw a 140% increase in murders between June 7 and July 4 when compared to the previous 28 days.
“We’re watching it very closely,” said LAPD Chief Michel Moore. “It’s a hot summer and I’m very concerned. This is a unique time with this pandemic and the economic impact of unemployment and loss of jobs and of people’s livelihoods.”
“It’s a very unique time in American history, and how it is impacting us in street violence and crime in our neighborhoods is something we don’t have all the answers for.”
Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti and other mayors from across the country asked Congress for federal funding to reduce firearms-related crimes on May 1, several weeks before Floyd’s death sparked civil unrest.
“While combating the virus is a top priority, gun violence and gun deaths continue to claim lives and devastate communities,” the mayors wrote. “Despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders, gun violence rates remain persistently high in cities, disproportionately impacting black and brown communities who are also among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.”
L.A. police are searching for a preteen boy believed to have shot and killed a woman on Saturday.
In 2019, homicides in L.A. had dropped 3% to 253, its lowest total since 1966.
City officials recently decided to develop a plan that would replace LAPD officers with community-based, unarmed responders to handle some non-violent situations.
Gun violence has also escalated in Atlanta, where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer on the night of June 12.
“I hate to use the word ‘perfect storm,’ but it’s where we are in this country right now,” said Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in a recent interview with CNN. “When you think about the leadership, or the lack thereof, that we have coming from the highest office in the land, I think that you are seeing so many emotions play out, and too often it’s playing out in violence in our streets.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms responds to a weekend of violence in her city describing a "perfect storm," and pointing to President Trump, saying his lack of leadership is stirring emotions which are playing out as "violence in our streets." https://t.co/Gke7JcI5nU pic.twitter.com/yFHIEikGh0
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) July 6, 2020
According to reports, Atlanta has seen a 20 percent spike in shootings, prompting Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp to recently issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency, authorizing the activation of Georgia National Guard troops. He said the move comes after “weeks of dramatically increased violent crime and property destruction in the City of Atlanta.”
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” Kemp said in a statement. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”
Shooting incidents went from 46 in 2019 to 93 this year between May 31 and June 27, while the number of murders spiked from six to 14 year over year for the period, police data shows.
The figures were the deciding factor in Kemp’s declaration, the governor’s office told CNN Monday.
Over the extended holiday weekend alone, more than 30 Georgians were wounded by gunfire – including five who died, the Atlanta Police Department and the governor’s office said.
Victims included Secoriea Turner, an eight-year-old girl fatally shot while riding in a car with her mother.
“You shot and killed a baby,” Mayor Bottoms said at a news conference.
Breaking: 9 year old child among three people shot on Flat Shoals Ave tonight. He is alert, conscious. Child shot 4 times. pic.twitter.com/m93N3amIO4
— Matt Johnson (@MattWSB) July 9, 2020
Days later, a nine year old boy was reportedly shot four times sustaining gunshot wounds in both legs.
“We’ve had over 75 shootings in the city over the past several weeks,” Bottoms said last week. “You can’t blame that on APD (Atlanta Police Department).”
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