A “perfect storm” of a coronavirus outbreak, social justice protests and police reforms have caused a huge spike in gun crime in cities across the United States, figures suggest.
Chicago and New York in particular have seen some of the worst violence in decades as calls have grown across the country to “defund” its police forces.
Chicago’s bloodiest holiday weekend in memory ended with 87 people shot – 17 fatally – including a seven-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. In New York, 65 people were shot over the two days, several of whom in broad daylight as the country celebrated its independence on July 4.
The violence in Chicago and New York caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who tweeted: ““Crime numbers are way up. Federal Government ready, willing and able to help, if asked!”
“Perhaps they will have to start changing their ways (and thinking!)”
Today’s front page of the New York Daily News:No One Is Safe pic.twitter.com/YBXkP3Joun
— NYC EMS Watch (@NYCEMSwatch) July 7, 2020
Kayleigh McEnany, White House spokeswoman, told reporters to ask themselves why only “Democrat cities” were seeing spikes in gun violence.
Shootings and murders began to noticeably rise in New York after the Covid-19 lockdown was implemented in late March and rose again after the New York Police Department (NYPD) disbanded its anti-crime unit of plainclothes officers on June 15, in reaction to street protests against police brutality.
Its 600 members had been involved in a number of high-profile police shootings and deaths, including the chokehold that killed Eric Garner.
With a total of 205 shootings in New York during the month of June, it was the bloodiest June in 24 years — going back to 1996, when the NYPD logged 236 incidents, the department said.
In June, the number of shootings surged 130 per cent compared to last June.
A similar pattern has emerged in Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis and Philadelphia.
“No one is safe” read the front page of the New York tabloid Daily News on Tuesday, above a photograph of a suspect pointing a gun out of a car window at a man walking with his seven-year-old daughter in the Bronx.
“This is something that we have to double down on,” Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor, said at a news conference on Monday, adding that the rise in shootings was fuelled by several factors, but mainly the “dislocation that has happened over these last four months with the coronavirus.”
“The fact that the court system is not working, the economy is not working, people have been penned up for months and months, so many issues underlying this challenge,” he said.
The NYPD has blamed bail reform, and the early release of about 2,500 inmates from city prisons because of Covid-19.
Some law enforcement officials and their political allies have sought to link the recent violence with anti-brutality protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis in late May.
Others say it is a once-in-a-lifetime confluence, describing it as a “perfect storm”.
“You have to ask yourself if the combination of all the changes — the decrease in enforcement, the bail reform, the protests, whether or not that impacts behaviour in some way, crime committing behaviour, and, logically, you almost have to say it does or else it is very hard to otherwise explain,” said Richard Aborn, the president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City.
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