In late December the Associated Press reported that 2020 was on track to become the deadliest year in U.S. history with the total number of deaths forecast to rise 15 percent compared to 2019, primarily due to the coronavirus pandemic. There were also several other smaller contributory factors, however, including higher death tolls from heart & circulatory diseases as well as from the country’s opioid crisis. Additionally, as Staista’s Niall McCarthy notes, the U.S. also experienced its most violent year in decades with an unprecedented rise in homicides.
The Gun Violence Archive reported that more than 19,000 people died in shootings or firearm-related incidents in 2020, the highest figure in over two decades.
New Orleans-based crime analyst Jeff Asher took a closer look at the number of murders in 57 major American cities and he found that the number of offenses grew in 51 of them. He only focused on agencies where data was available and most of them had figures through November or December of 2020.
Growth in violent crime varied by city with Seattle seeing a 74 percent spike in homicides between 2019 and 2020 while Chicago and Boston saw their offenses grow 55.5 percent and 54 percent, respectively. Elsewhere, Washington D.C. and Las Vegas saw growth in their murder offences, albeit at a slower pace of less than 20 percent.
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New York’s homicide count went up by nearly 40 percent with Mayor Bill de Blasio stating that the figures should worry all New Yorkers and it has to stop.
He attributed the situation “in part, to the coronavirus and to the fact that people are cooped up”, according to NPR, adding that “it’s certainly related to the fact that the criminal justice system is on pause and that’s causing a lot of problems”.
The rise in homicide has not been confined to cities and Asher says that the problem is also increasingly rural. He told NPR that the numbers for 2020 are by no means final and that the official end of year statistics will tell a startlingly grim story. He also said that the U.S. is on course for the largest one-year rise in its murder count ever recorded.