Crime In Cities 2020

April 1, 2021

How Safe Are You?

Depends on the statistic.

As the federal government expands law enforcement into major U.S. cities, here’s what one report says about violent crime in America in 2020.

Backstory: The Data Gap

  • Crime statistics are voluntarily reported by localities to the federal government.
  • Cities may report crimes differently (or not at all) and at different times.
  • Lawmakers from both parties proposed legislation to encourage or mandate more comprehensive crime-reporting in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody. Legislation has stalled.

What To Know

The Dept. of Justice recently launched “Operation Legend” – sending resources, equipment & federal law enforcement to fight crime alongside local police. Some mayors don’t want the help.

In light of the difference in opinions and varying data, The Wall Street Journal did an independent analysis of violent crime statistics in the largest 50 U.S. cities.

What The Data Says:

  • Overall: Homicides, shootings up in top cities in 2020. Other violent crimes (such as robbery, rape) are down.
  • Homicides up across regions.
  • 1 in 8 homicides in America happening in the city of Chicago.

Important Context: Homicides increased but are not currently at historic levels. In other words: it’s not good, but it’s been worse.

“Everything that society does that might shape public safety was turned upside-down during the pandemic.”

Director of the University of Chicago’s “Crime Lab” Jens Ludwig, on the WSJ data. Anecdotes point to different reasons for the rise in homicides — from recession, pressure on police in connection with the pandemic and protests, & gangs gaining strength because of the closures of schools, churches and after-school programs.

Why It Matters:

U.S. cities have become increasingly safer over the last few decades. Here’s 3 questions we’re asking:

  • Is a rise in homicides reflecting a moment in time, or the beginning of a trend of an increase in crime overall?
  • What are the impacts of the pandemic and protests on local police?
  • What role does politics play in all of this, especially during an election year?

“Operation Legend” was named after a 4-year-old boy, LeGend, killed during a shooting in Kansas City, MO. It expanded last week from Kansas City, Chicago, & Albuquerque to include Detroit, Cleveland, & Milwaukee — putting the Trump administration at odds with local lawmakers. Read more:

A GOOD OVERVIEW OF OPINIONS: Federal agents, officers head to Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee as Operation Legend expands – CLICK HERE

Homicide Spike Hits Most Large U.S. Cities: WSJ ANALYSIS

Dept of Justice latest on (as of August 3) OPERATION LEGEND

Background on the little boy who inspired the operation: LEGEND TALIFERRO

by Jenna Lee,