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US saw biggest spike in gun violence in 50 decades. Don’t panic yet.

Last year likely marked America’s largest single-year rise in violent crime in 50 years – sparked by a sharp increase in shootings after the pandemic began.Amid a national conversation on policing, the surge adds pressure to policymakers at all levels. Experts caution that while law enforcement is a vital part of public safety, police should…

Last year probably marked America’s largest single-year growth in violent crime in 50 years — sparked by a sudden increase in shootings after the pandemic started.

Amid a nationwide dialog on policing, the spike adds pressure to policymakers at all levels. Experts caution that while law enforcement is a vital part of public safety, police ought to be one part in a larger package of solutions. You will find well-tested methods that reduce violence, but implementing them at scale will require patience, nuance, and a willingness to believe past political narratives. 

Why We Wrote This

The surge in gun violence throughout the pandemic has bolstered both pro- and anti-police stances. But experts — and history — indicate a more nuanced approach is necessary.

“Community gun violence — which is really what’s driving this trend — is not the intractable challenge that people think it is,” states Thomas Abt of the Council on Criminal Justice. “In fact, we’ve had success in reducing this kind of violence many times and in many places all around the country. The challenge has been sustaining that success.”

The discourse around public security has largely devolved into a false either-or choice of supporting or opposing the authorities. But effective policies do not fit cleanly into abandoned – or right-wing platforms.

“No city in the United States has sustainably reduced violence by exclusively arresting their way out of the problem or by programming their way out of it,” says Mr. Abt. “Everybody has used a combination of strategies.”

Last year likely marked America’s biggest single-year growth in gun violence in 50 years — sparked by a sudden rise in shootings following the pandemic started.

Though the FBI will not release official numbers until the autumn, Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at Princeton University in New Jersey and an expert on violent offense, quotes the national murder rate climbed by 25percent to 30%. The speed of nonfatal shootings jumped more, ” he states, doubling in several cities. 

Amid a nationwide dialog about policing, the surge adds pressure to policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. Experts caution that while law enforcement is a vital part of public security, authorities should be one part in a larger package of solutions. There are well-tested procedures that decrease violence, but implementing them at scale will require patience, nuance, and a willingness to believe beyond political narratives. 

Why We Wrote This

The surge in gun violence during the pandemic has bolstered both pro- and anti-police stances. But experts — and history — indicate a more nuanced approach is necessary.

“Community gun violence — which is really what’s driving this trend — is not the intractable challenge that people think it is,” states Thomas Abt, manager of the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice in the Council on Criminal Justice. “In fact, we’ve had success in reducing this kind of violence many times and in many places all around the country. The challenge has been sustaining that success.”

Are we seeing a return to 1990s-level violence?

In total amounts, the degree of gun violence remains far below its peak in the first 1990s — and shootings plummeted across the United States until 2014, when numbers slowly began dividing up. 

According to a report Mr. Abt co-wrote that this January, sampling 34 important U.S. cities, the homicide rate in 2020 has been 11.4 deaths each 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 19.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 1995. 

SOURCE: FBI Uniform Crime Reports

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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

There’s no universally agreed-upon explanation for the decadeslong drop in violence. Nor is there a definite causal story for the spike last year. Likely at fault, however, are the pandemic and social unrest in response to police brutality. 

Institutions like churches, colleges, and areas of business all help reduce violence by keeping people off the roads and connected with their communities, says Elizabeth Glazer, former manager of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. When those structures collapse,”it aggravates the sense of estrangement and inequality and gives rise to the conditions that create violence,” she says. 

Citizens who are feeling alienated from the authorities, for example, may decide to protect themselves not by calling law enforcement but by purchasing a firearm — as Americans have done in record numbers since last year

“It’s not that a virus causes shootings,” says Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. “It’s the viru

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