Depleted cities face another challenge: an increase in violence

NEW YORK (AP) – Still reeling from coronavirus pandemic and street protests over George Floyd police murder, depleted cities across the country face another challenge: a spike in gunfire that has left dozens dead, including young children.

The rise defies easy explanation, experts say, pointing to the toxic mix of problems the United States will face in 2020: an unemployment rate. not seen in a generation, a pandemic That has killed more than 130,000 people, orders to stay home, mounting anger at police brutality, intense stress, even the weather.

“I think it’s a perfect storm of anguish in America,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said after a weekend of bloodshed in her city.

Jerry Ratcliffe, Professor of Criminal Justice, Temple University and host of “Reducing Crime” Podcast, to put it bluntly: “Anyone who thinks they can unravel all of this probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

President Donald Trump has tapped into violence for political gain, accusing Democrats of being weak and suggesting that the crime wave is being fueled by recent protests calling for racial justice, police reform and drastic cuts in funding for the app. of the law.

“Law and order are the building blocks of the American dream, but if lawlessness prevails, this dream falls apart,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said last week.

Police officials in New York City and elsewhere say that the recent bloodshed has shown that there are consequences to some reforms they consider to be flawed, particularly bail reform, enacted before the protests, but exacerbated by the moment.

The emboldened criminals feel “that the police can no longer do anything, that no one likes the police, that they can get away with it, that it is safe to take a gun to the street,” said the head of the New York Police Department. , Terence Monahan. this week.

Monahan’s comments came after a festive weekend that saw a wave of shootings that left 10 people dead. As of Sunday, the shootings increased more than 53%, to 585, so far this year.

The recent spasm of violence was captured in a New York Post headline about a crime-ravaged city calling for help. It was almost identical to one that was executed 30 years ago, when there were more than 2,000 murders a year. But crime has been on the decline for more than a decade: There were around 300 last year.

Crime has also skyrocketed in other major cities. In Dallas, violent crime increased more than 14% from April to June. In Philadelphia, homicides increased 20% during the week ending July 5 from last year at this time. In Atlanta, 31 people were shot over the weekend, five fatally, compared to seven shootings and one murder during the same week in 2019.

Some police unions say officers are simply not doing their job out of fear of being charged with a crime.

Bottoms, a Democrat, lashed out at an 8-year-old girl. was shot dead near Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta, where Rayshard Brooks He died three weeks earlier in a confrontation with the police, who was later criminally charged.

“That is an important movement that is happening,” he said at a press conference. “But this random, wild, wild West shoots them because you have to stop.”

The arm of the Trump campaign in Georgia claimed that Atlanta was a “war zone” sparked after Bottoms “lost control of the city after what started as peaceful protests quickly turned violent.” In a flurry of activity against the police.

The Trump campaign also launched a $ 250,000 bombardment on Sunday on Facebook and Twitter, alleging that “violent crime has been EXPLOITED” when protesters call for cuts to police departments across the country. The ad features a video of an empty police station with a ringing phone sending a call to an answering machine, which says the estimated wait time for police help is five days.

The video ends with the words: “You will not be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Biden’s campaign said Trump’s focus was just another distraction from his “inaction and mismanagement” of the coronavirus crisis.

“As Donald Trump searches for the latest cultural issue to separate people and celebrates Independence Day with new rhetoric harassing the race, Americans are contracting coronaviruses at alarming rates, and there is still no coherent national plan to address it.” said TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for the alleged Democratic candidate.

Trump’s messages went beyond the ad campaign. Donald Trump Jr. shared a conservatively created meme on Facebook Davon McNeal, 11, who was shot to death in Washington during a cookout over the weekend.

“Davon was killed after a series of BLM (Black Lives Matter) violence on the fourth of July,” it said.

The shooting was unrelated to the Black Lives Matter, the movement behind many of the protests against police brutality. The boy had been to a cookout against family-oriented violence on Saturday, but went looking for a phone charger from his aunt’s house when he was hit by gunmen in a sedan.

Tracie Keesee, a longtime police officer in Denver and New York who co-founded the Center for Police Equity, said it is important to get answers about what is driving crime, whether it’s drugs, domestic violence or poverty. She warned against widespread generalizations.

“You have to go into the numbers,” he said.

Proponents of reform say that attributing an increase to the momentum needed for police reform ignores the root causes of crime and the movement’s progress.

Government officials must “be thoughtful, nuanced, and contextual about these things,” Liberal New York City Council President Corey Johnson told WNYC radio this week.

To link the shootings with the reforms, Johnson added, he offers “an inaccurate picture of what criminal justice reform is all about and just demonizes the moment we are in and we are not talking about what brought us here today.”

Like New York, Chicago had already seen an increase in homicides and shootings in the first part of the year. But while violence declined in New York on orders to stay home, the shootings in Chicago remained stable, likely due to the gang war, said Wesley Skogan, who studies crime at the Northwestern University Policy Research Institute. .

Seventeen people were killed in Chicago and 70 wounded, one of the bloodiest holiday weekends remembered there.

The gangs “are not particularly deterred by the risks of being out there,” Skogan said. “Of all the things they are probably concerned about, COVID is way below the list.”


Reported length from Washington. Associated Press writers Don Babwin and Amanda Seitz in Chicago, Summer Ballentine in St. Louis, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, and Bill Barrow and Kate Brumback in Atlanta contributed to this report.