The slow erosion of the U.S. criminal-justice system could keep violence elevated for some time.
As the editorial board highlights in “The 2020 Murder Spike” (Sept. 29), 2020 was a record-poor year for U.S. violent crime. Astute readers should be aware that the problem has not abated. Violent crime remains high as the criminal-justice system struggles to keep up.
Although it will take another year to get a full picture of 2021, the preliminary data from big U.S. cities is grim. Data collected by the firm AH Datalytics shows that homicide is up, year to date, in two-thirds of the nearly 90 cities it covers. In some jurisdictions, violence is down relative to 2020, but still dramatically elevated relative to 2019. In New York City, for example, there were 53 murders in August, down from 58 in August 2020—but up from 36 in August 2019.
That jump reflects a criminal-justice system still struggling to recover from the dual blow of Covid and antipolice sentiment. Jail populations are still well below where they were in February of last year; the precipitous decline has released thousands of criminals, including repeat offenders, onto our streets. Some courts are not yet running at full capacity. Big-city police departments like Minneapolis’s are still straining to meet staffing minimums.
Charles Fain Lehman is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.
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