Bad Policies, Not Racism or Covid-19, Are Causing the Spike in Murder

A good example of the mainstream media narrative regarding the unprecedented surge in homicides, which started last year and has continued unabated this year, is this June article from the Washington Post which reported that racist police,  inequality and the economic and social impact of the pandemic are the root causes.   “Experts have attributed the increase to a variety of new and long-standing issues—-including entrenched inequality, soaring gun ownership, and fraying relations between police and the communities they serve—all intensified during the coronavirus pandemic and widespread uprising for racial justice.”  It’s guns and racism that’s causing all those murders folks.  Virginia lawyer Hans Bader has this piece in Liberty Unyielding debunking this claptrap.

“The protests likely were a factor.  But the pandemic wasn’t.  The pandemic killed people across the globe and plunged most of the world into a recession.  Yet the United States was almost alone in having a huge increase in homicides.  Most of the world saw reductions in homicide rates in 2020.”  Bader cited a story in the Daily Wire which noted that in many countries, murder rates actually went down during the pandemic.   London saw a 16% decline last year while murders fell by 14% in Italy and 2% in France.  The drop in economic activity in the U.S. due to the pandemic was a fraction of what it was  in those countries.

A Major factor enabling higher homicide rates was the steady decline in incarceration rates, putting more criminals on the streets.  There were 14% fewer criminals in prisons and jails in 2020 than in 2019, even though violent crime increased dramatically.  Bader also points  to the serious decline in the number of police officers.  “A robust body of research has thoroughly illustrated that more police means less crime—-a finding at odds with ever-more-popular calls to defund the police.”   With police being violently attacked during the George Floyd riots, and randomly assaulted or killed while attempting arrests or sitting in patrol cars, its stands to reason that police are retiring at higher levels, fewer are willing to take their place, and the police that remain have become less proactive.

Criminal justice reforms which have sharply reduced sentences and eliminated bail for arrestees are also major contributors.  “In places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, left-wing district attorneys have recently refused to prosecute any minors—-even murderers—-in adult court.  So murderers who commit their crimes at age 17, will not be locked up for more than a few years.  Shootings rose by 73% in Los Angeles over the first four months of 2021, after rising 40% in 2020.  Murder rates peak in the late teens and early 20s.  About four in ten killers commit their crime before age 25.  Juvenile killers often commit more violent crimes after being released.”

The increases in crime over the past two years are the result of a larger trend that began a decade ago, to abandon policies and practices that had dramatically reduced crime for an entire generation.   The increases will continue until the public removes the politicians who caused this.



5 Responses

  1. Rick Nevin says:

    Robbery is the second largest category of violent crime and it has continued its steady decline in 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the robbery rate fell to the lowest level since the early-1960s. The burglary rate fell to an all time record low in 2015 and fell to another new record low every year since 2015. Unlike the murder spike in 2020, robbery and burglary (and felony larceny theft) declines in 2020 (and 2021) show a steady continuation of the multi-decade crime decline.

    I don’t believe the “guns and racism” explanation for the murder spike, but your explanation is completely inconsistent with other crime trends. You blame the murder spike on a decline in criminals in prisons and jails, a “serious decline in the number of police officers” (this has been disputed), and a “trend that began a decade ago, to abandon policies and practices that had dramatically reduced crime for an entire generation”. Even if all those claims were correct, wouldn’t all of those factors also embolden robbers, burglars, and thieves?
    – Rick

  2. Rick: Not all crimes rise and fall at the same speed. It depends alot on opportunity. Last year, because most Americans were sheltering in their homes due to the pandemic and many businesses had to close, criminals took the opportunity to break into businesses, steal cars, while drug-dealing gangs engaged in shooting wars over a growing drug market. Commercial burglaries, drug overdoses, vehicle theft and shootings and accompanying homicides were all up. Now with more people on the streets and out of their homes, robberies ( and burglaries ( are starting to increase. A note about property crime. Some think tanks like the Sentencing Project and PPIC have released “studies” and even the DOJ have reported a decrease in property crime over 2020. We have heard from sheriffs and chiefs across California who admit that fewer theft-related crimes are being reported because Proposition 47 converted most to misdemeanors. With big city police department’s budgets getting cut, and shootings, auto break-ins and assaults at or near all time highs, PDs don’t have the manpower to run down misdemeants. The public has figured this out. Security companies are making alot of money these days in the better neighborhoods. Our foundation is gathering government data on victimization rates to compare with rates of reported crime. I am guessing we will find a significant disparity in these numbers, particularly in recent years. We will probably see the largest disparity in California, where de-policing and sentencing reforms have been going on longer than in most other places.

    • Rick Nevin says:

      Well I appreciate your reply, but I’m not convinced. Robberies and burglaries are not misdemeanors, and the ongoing decline in those two categories in 2020 was nationwide. YTD data reported from more than 65 cities and metro counties (see my link above) show those trends continuing through 2021. The 2020 NCVS should show us if there was a large 2020 decline in the percent of robberies and burglaries reported to police.
      – Rick

  3. The point of my post was that bad policies invite increased crime. National numbers do not reflect what’s actually happening in places with the worst policies on crime and policing. As I noted, Los Angeles and San Francisco are experiencing increased robberies. This is a significant phenomenon not reflected in the data you cite. Auto theft, a property felony, also increased last year in most big cities. Could it be that it was easier to steal cars with no witnesses on the streets? The bad news is that auto thefts are also increasing this year.

    In his post today, Bill Otis points out that even liberals are beginning to recognize the connection between policing policies and crime rates. “I know people don’t want to hear this, and I empathize with that,” Anna Harvey, a public safety expert at New York University, told me. “[But] as far as the research evidence goes, for short-term responses to increases in homicides, the evidence is strongest for the police-based solutions.”

  4. Rick Nevin says:

    In 2020, robberies in San Francisco fell 23%. SF burglaries jumped 49% in 2020 and I wouldn’t be surprised if all of that increase was commercial burglaries associated with looting. Auto thefts jumped 35% but vehicle burglaries, (theft from vehicles, accounting for 60% of felony Larceny-Theft) fell 43%.

    YTD through 9/26/2021, SF robberies are down another 7%. Burglaries looked like they were still rising earlier this year, but YTD SF burglaries are now up just 0.5%, and vehicle thefts are down 1.4%.

    2021 YTD robberies in Los Angeles are up 0.1% vs. 2020 and down 16.1% vs. 2019. YTD LA burglaries are down 12% vs. 2020 and down 10.1% vs. 2019. YTD vehicle theft is up 6.7% vs. 2020 and up 46.1% vs. 2019, but vehicle burglary/thefts are down 2.8% vs. 2020 and down 10.3% vs. 2019.

    I have great respect for the police and a personal connection to an earlier generation of NYPD officers.
    That said, I don’t think that either side of the crime and incarceration debate is addressing the most remarkable trends that we have seen over the last 30 years: Massive arrest and incarceration rate declines for juveniles and young adults, while arrest and incarceration rates have increased for older adults.