The Role of Covid Lockdowns in 2020’s Homicide Surge
Twenty twenty was an unpleasant year for so many reasons. It was a year of riots, unemployment, and the trend in overall rising mortality continued unabated.
Homicides also increased.
In fact, in preliminary homicide data, it looks like homicides increased a lot in 2020.
According to the FBI’s Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for the first half of 2020, “murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses increased 14.8%, and aggravated assault offenses were up 4.6%.”
If the second half of 2020 proves to be about the same as the first half, then the nationwide homicide rate for 2020 will have risen from 5 per 100,000 in 2019 to 5.8 per 100,000 in 2020. That’s a big increase, and puts 2020’s total at the highest rate recorded in fifteen years, matching 2006’s rate of 5.8 per 100,000.
Some other data, however, suggests the year-end numbers for 2020 will be even worse than that. Homicides look to be up more than 20 percent during the fall of 2020 compared to the previous year. Thus, the increase from 2019 to 2020 may prove to be one of the largest increases in homicide in more than fifty years.
Meanwhile, homicides in certain cities increased by far worse rates. Year-over-year increases of 30 percent or more were common in 2020, and this wasn’t limited to only large cities.
In data posted by researcher Jeff Asher, total year-over-year homicides through September 2020 were up in a wide range of locations: up 55 percent in Chicago, up 54 percent in Boston, up 38 percent in Denver, and up 105 percent in Omaha.
What Caused the Surge?
It’s much easier to count homicides than to determine the events and phenomena driving trends in homicides. It’s never a good idea to attribute changes in homicide totals to any single cause.
Nonetheless, we can hazard some guesses.
If we’re going to ask ourselves what might have caused such an unusually large rise in homicide, we ought to look for unusual events.
Most obvious among these, of course, are the stay-at-home orders, business closures, and lockdowns that have occurred since March of last year. These are pretty unusual things.
Although it is considered somewhat heretical to point out that lockdowns can produce negative societal side effects, the connection to violent behavior is so undeniable that this is now openly admitted.
For example, in a recent interview with The Atlantic, sociologist Patrick Sharkey discusses some of the likely causes of 2020’s surge in violence, stating:
Last year, everyday patterns of life broke down. Schools shut down. Young people were on their own. There was a widespread sense of a crisis and a surge in gun ownership. People stopped making their way to institutions that they know and where they spend their time. That type of destabilization is what creates the conditions for violence to emerge.
When asked if “idle time” caused by lockdowns was somehow connected to rising homicides, Sharkey continued:
It’s not just idle time but disconnection. That might be the better way to talk about it. People lost connections to institutions of community life, which include school, summer jobs programs, pools, and libraries. Those are the institutions that create connections between members of communities, especially for young people. When individuals are not connected to those institutions, then they’re out in public spaces, often without adults present. And while that dynamic doesn’t always lead to a rise in violence, it can.
The connection between a lack of comm
Article from Mises Wire