2020 was a year of rampant violence | Editors Pick | lmtribune.com

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5ff012f93dbdc imageWho would have thought that the Democrats’ platform of “defund the police” could have such consequences? </sarcasm>

It’s worth reading the whole thing. 

End-of-year crime tallies for several U.S. cities paint a grim picture of carnage for 2020. The stress of the pandemic-related isolation and job losses plus political upheaval and racial unrest are believed to have pushed the numbers up. Here’s a look at violent crime in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Chicago: 769 homicides as gun violence surges

CHICAGO — The number of homicides and shootings in Chicago spiked dramatically in 2020, ending with more bloodshed than in all but one year in more than two decades, statistics released by police on Friday revealed.

After three years of falling homicide totals, 2020 ended with 769 homicides — 274 more than the previous year and the most since the 784 homicides in 2016. The latest shooting victim figures told the same story, with the year ending with 4,033 shooting victims compared with 2,598 the year before.

And it never let up, as is illustrated by the fact that in December, there were 50 homicides — 19 more than occurred in December 2019.

None of these numbers come as a surprise, as the year unfolded with news reports about violence that often included the word “deadliest,” such as after Memorial Day weekend, the deadliest in five years. Then a few days later, May 31, ended with more homicides — 18 — than in any single day in memory.

Chicago was not alone. During that weekend in particular, which came after the death of George Floyd after being forcibly detained by Minneapolis police, cities across the United States witnessed spasms of violence.

The year ended in Detroit, Washington, D.C., New York, Milwaukee and other cities with more killings than the year before. The same held true in smaller cities, including Grand Rapids, Mich., and Rockford, Ill.. Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, saw hundreds more homicides than either New York or Los Angeles.

Law enforcement officials and experts around the U.S. have pointed to social and economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 virus, public sentiment toward police following Floyd’s death and a historic shortage of jobs and resources in poorer communities as contributing factors.

According to the Chicago Police Department, 79 officers were shot at in 2020, compared with 22 who were fired upon the year before. The number of officers who were struck by bullets doubled from five in 2019 to 10 in 2020.

— Don Babwin, Associated Press

New York: More shootings in four months than all of 2019

NEW YORK — New York City endured a 2020 crime surge straight out of hell: a 97 percent jump in shootings and a nearly 45 percent surge in murders, including 15 weeks straight of gunfire as COVID-19 ravaged the city.

The NYPD released the sobering preliminary year-end stats Friday, eager to turn the page on a tally that recorded more shootings from mid-May through mid-September than in all of 2019, a soul-crushing surge that never let up — with 1,868 people hit by bullets.

When the ball fell in Times Square, the NYPD had responded to 1,531 shooting incidents across the five boroughs, 754 more than in all of 2019, officials said. The NYPD Detective Bureau investigated 462 killings around the city — 143 more than the year before.

The hasn’t been such alarming violence since 2006, when 1,565 shootings were reported, according to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.

At the other end of the painful tally, there were decreases in rapes, robberies and assaults, although the stats showed jumps in burglaries and car thefts, officials said.

Overall crime was down, if only slightly, by 0.9 percent. As of Dec. 27, 94,314 felony crimes were reported in the city, 845 fewer than the year before.

The out-of-control bloodshed began its stranglehold early this year, with Shea and other officials saying their concerns about bail reform were being realized — that too many suspects were freed with without bail, with judges stripped of discretion to keep potentially violent offenders behind bars. The criticism mounted when scores of jailed prisoners were let out to mitigate the relentless virus spread among that population.

By May 10, murders had crept up just slightly, with 108 compared with 104 in 2019; But shootings jumped 14 percent, to 278 from 245.

The following week’s numbers were frightening: 37 people were shot — kicking off a surge that would take off with a fury after the caught-on-video police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25. With Floyd protests in the city, policed by thousands of NYPD officers who responded to riots and looting, there were more crime hikes.

By early summer, shootings had skyrocketed, culminating in a horrific July 4 weekend in which 41 people were shot, nine fatally, in one day — carnage that police say was primarily caused by street crews and gangs.

From the first week of June through the second week of September, 985 people were shot in the city, according to statistics. For all of 2019, 777 people were shot, officials said.

— Rocco Parascandola and Thomas Tracy, New York Daily News

 Philly: Nearly 500 people killed, 2,200 shot

PHILADELPIA — For just the second time in its history, Philadelphia’s annual homicide total threatened in 2020 to reach 500, another grim marker in a year where the city has been wracked by the coronavirus pandemic, economic strife, and social unrest over racial inequity.

The number of people killed last year — 499 as of late Thursday — is 40 percent higher than last year, and more than in all of 2013 and 2014 combined. The only time more people were slain in the city was in 1990, when police reported 500 homicides as violence surged alongside an intensifying crack-cocaine epidemic.

The spike in shootings was even more pronounced. More than 2,240 people were shot since Jan. 1, 40 percent more than police have ever recorded. Those statistics only date back to 2007, when the department began keeping track of shooting victims separately from the broader category of assaults involving a gun.

As in most years, the vast majority of victims were young, Black men — many from impoverished neighborhoods lacking resources and long afflicted by gun violence. But shots also killed and wounded children playing on the street. A pregnant woman was struck by a stray bullet — forcing the early delivery of her baby. Some gunmen fired indiscriminately into block parties. A witness was shot dead near City Hall in what police believe was a targeted hit for his testimony in a murder trial.

Still, the city’s crime picture continued to show uneven and unusual signs: As homicides and shootings soared, overall violent crime — which also includes rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults — remained near decadeslong lows, while overall property crime was also lower than last year.

In interviews, city officials including Mayor Jim Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and District Attorney Larry Krasner said they believed a combination of factors unique to 2020 contributed to the spike in gun violence.

They pointed to a pandemic increasing stress and desperation for people in already-struggling neighborhoods; officers being pulled away from their regular neighborhood patrols to help monitor protests and respond to pockets of social unrest; COVID exposures forcing further staffing adjustments; and a series of trust-shattering episodes by officers — including use of tear gas and rubber bullets during protests in June — that may have further eroded law enforcement legitimacy in a city that has long struggled with the issue.

— Chris Palmer, The Philadelphia Inquirer

2020 was a year of rampant violence | Editors Pick | lmtribune.com