The US marked a grime milestone between 2019 and 2020.
New data released by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics shows a 30% increase in the nation's homicide rate between 2019 and 2020, the highest jump seen in the last 100 years.
Crime statistics have pointed to a rise, but the data released by the group on Wednesday (October 6) –– which included researcher's sifting through death certificates and other public health data –– confirms the increase. Last week, the FBI released its own data that showed the number of murders and non-negligent manslaughter incidents increased by 29.4% in 2020.
The last time the nation saw any rate as close as this was between 2000 and 2001 with a 20% increase, because of the September 11 terrorist attacks, CDC researchers said.
"A 30% increase is outstanding, really," Dr. Robert Anderson, NCHS Chief of Mortality Statistics, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
And the homicides aren't just happening in the typical places, either. "Places that haven't traditionally had high homicides rates have had increases," Anderson noted. Some places, like Atlanta, saw a homicide rate increase higher than the national average.
The AJC reported that police investigated 157 homicides in 2020, a rise from 99 in 2019, and the most the city has seen in 20 years.
What's Driving the Jump?
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom called the city's homicide jump a "COVID crime wave," which law enforcement leaders have agreed with, though exact reasons are hard to lock in.
"There are a lot of potential reasons why this is happening that are related to the pandemic," Anderson said.
"Hungry people do desperate things," DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said, noting that pandemic-related financial stress prompted violence. "And we know that food insecurity is a major issue right now."
Without regular activities, the pandemic left kids and teens vulnerable to violence, the newspaper noted.
One 18-year-old, Jalanni Pless, was fatally shot in June 2020 while selling water in Atlanta. His mother, Tomeka Pless, told the AJC kids were doing whatever they could during the lockdown.
"They're in survival mood," Pless told the AJC. "They're doing whatever it takes."
As research continues to unfold a picture of all that took place last year, the impact is a lived reality for the families and communities of victims.
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