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COVID pandemic and isolation likely pushed spike in 2020 homicides and assaults

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Yahoo News, October 2021

Adding to the misery caused by catastrophic hurricanes in the South, raging wildfires in the West and the deadly spread of COVID-19 throughout the land, came news from the FBI that overall violent crime rose in 2020 for the first time in four years, including a nearly 30% spike in murder and non-negligent manslaughter. Curiously, however, while homicides and aggravated assaults soared, two categories of violent crime–rape and robbery–actually declined, as did burglaries and larcenies.

After decades of relative calm in terms of the crime rate, such a turn of misfortune begs for explanation, as does the divergent pattern among the four major categories of violence. Of course, a surge as large as was reported in killings would involve several factors, some of which are tied directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent changes in lifestyle.

Most prominent is the fact that millions of Americans were suddenly out of work or school, thereby lacking structure in their daily lives. Idleness provided far too many opportunities for conflict and too much free time. For example, despite lockdowns, street gangs remained active, resulting in a 62% spike in gang-related homicides.

Aside from street battles, much of violent conflict occurred at home, with families forced to spend hour after hour cloistered together inside. Extended periods of close contact, boredom and economic hardship often meant little tranquility at home, as family homicide rose 26%.

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