The recent rise in violent crime in the United States has added another compounding layer of hardship to a nation struggling to rebuild from the events of 2020. While overall crime rates went down between 2019 and 2020, the number of murders increased by nearly 30%, largely driven by increases in firearm homicides.
As with any headline-grabbing trend, these reports unleashed a flurry of theories—largely unsubstantiated—for what is driving the increase, with many blaming summer protests and “low morale” among police (recycled versions of the repeatedly debunked “Ferguson effect” theory). Others blame rising crime on the “defund the police” movement (despite the fact that most police budgets increased in the last year) or on progressive prosecution practices in cities such as Baltimore, San Francisco, and Philadelphia (theories that have also been debunked). The most obvious, and intuitive, strain of these theories acknowledges that the nation was in the middle of a pandemic that saw high unemployment, economic distress, and increased social isolation converge to increase violence.