CHICAGO – For many major cities in the United States, this year has been marked by bullets and bloodshed.
More than 1,500 people have been shot in Chicago, nearly 900 in Philadelphia, and more than 500 in New York City so far in 2020, all significantly more than at the same time last year (1,018 in Chicago, 701 in Philadelphia. and 355 in New York).
The increase in shootings has been particularly painful for communities of color, which have disproportionately borne the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, economic recession and social unrest following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
In New York City, after the number of shooting victims more than doubled from June 2019 to June June, each person who was shot in July, nearly 100 in total, has been a member of the minority community , according to the police department. And in June, 97 percent of the shooting victims were minorities, the department said.
In Chicago, where minority communities have long struggled with deadly gun violence, shooting has increased 76 percent compared to the same time last year, with almost all of the bloodshed concentrated in predominantly communities blacks and browns of the city on the south and west sides.
Among the victims was a 7-year-old girl, Natalia Wallace, who was shot dead at a family gathering over the July 4 weekend on the West Side.
While an increase in shootings is common during the warm months, this year has been much more complex, said Christopher Herrmann, a former crime analyst supervisor with the New York Police Department and professor at the College of Criminal Justice John Jay in New York. .
“There is a multiplication factor at this time. Not only is it summer violence, but there is COVID-19, police protests and job loss, ”he said. “All of those factors are going to exacerbate violence, especially in communities that were already vulnerable.”
Predominantly black neighborhoods in recent decades have averaged five times more violent crime than predominantly white communities, according to a 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
These communities, which already face structural racism and barriers to opportunity, are now dealing with enormous additional causes of stress, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Weapons Policy and Research.
“People who are involved in violence, many of them have financial insecurity, housing insecurity, food insecurity, their whole lives are insecure,” he said.
In Louisville, as protests persist over the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot at her home by Louisville Metro Police Department agents in March, the number of non-fatal shots has doubled compared to the same time of year. past, and a 40 percent increase in firearm deaths.
From January to May this year, nearly 75 percent of homicide victims were black, according to the Louisville Police Department.
In Philadelphia, more than 30 people were shot over the weekend of July 4, and 23 were shot within a 24-hour period. The city has seen a nearly 30 percent increase in homicides since the same time in 2019.
Bilal Qayyum, an advocate against violence in the city, said the loss of jobs and the lack of opportunities before the pandemic had left minority communities particularly vulnerable this summer.
“That kind of pressure consistently in a community, without any sign of change, I really think it’s helping to fuel the violence that we’re seeing right now,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Ronnie Dunn, a professor of urban policy at Cleveland State University, called the increased bloodshed “a perfect storm, a confluence of events that exposed all the existing social inequalities.”
“The black community lives in a state of trauma when you look at all the diseases that negatively affect them,” he said. “These communities are the most vulnerable in our society, so many of these social and social illnesses will manifest there earlier and more prominently.”
Atlanta had a 20 percent increase in shootings from the same time in 2019, with one of the youngest victims being an 8-year-old girl, Secoriea Turner, who was shot while riding in a car with her mother during the weekend. of the week of July 4th. The violence comes amid riots caused by the police murder of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was shot by a white office in Wendy’s parking lot on June 12.
Alethea Carter, 65, who has lived in Atlanta’s Edgewood neighborhood all her life, has been rocked by the recent wave of violence.
“If they don’t kill us,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “we’re going to kill each other. It’s sad.”
Floyd’s death has fueled a national estimate of police tactics and fueled calls to underfund the police and redirect funds to community and social welfare causes.
Due to police mistrust, Webster said, people may be less inclined to call 911 if they see a crime happening. In the worst case, officials themselves could step back and be less proactive in facing public reaction, he said.
“One thing that has been observed in various cities after there is a high-profile incident of police abuse, there is a fairly substantial uprising in response to that, where an increase in violence is commonly seen in communities that are often plagued of this problem, “Webster said.
As the shootings increase across the country, addressing the problem requires action on several fronts, including a federal response, Webster added.
“Communities are desperate for resources, particularly right now, and it goes beyond what a city can do. This is really a matter of national public policy, ”he said. “People have to ask themselves how they can help the most vulnerable affected by the pandemic and the economic impact of it.”
Another critical piece of the solution will also face police-related problems, he said. “To reduce this violence, we will have to devise police models and public security models that extend beyond the police that these communities feel committed to and trust.”
Despite the uncertainty and unrest across the country, there are ways to stem the desperation that fuels much violence, Webster said, and help bring opportunities and hope to communities of color.
“There are a lot of stressed out people living on the edge who don’t have much faith that the government will endorse them,” Webster said.