by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, July 10 (Xinhua) — The COVID-19 pandemic has given birth to a nationwide crime wave that shows no signs of abating. Experts, police officers and ordinary Americans fear that cities will once again plunge back into the wave of violent crime that characterized the early 1990s.
More than 180 people were shot dead nationwide over the July 4 holiday weekend, as major U.S. cities continue to see a surge in violence, according to data gathered by the Gun Violence Archive, a database that tracks the latest acts of gun violence.
In Chicago, over 100 people were shot over the 4th of July weekend, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. Victims included two police officers who were wounded as they attempted to disperse crowds early Monday morning.
In Fort Worth, Texas, a mass shooting occurred on July 4, in which eight victims were shot after an argument at a car wash. In Norfolk, Virginia, a 15-year-old boy shot four children, media reported.
In Dallas, Texas, four victims were shot dead in a mass shooting on the Independence Day. In Cincinnati, Ohio, a man opened fire during a holiday party, killing two and wounding three others. In Atlanta, Georgia, one child was shot after a brawl involving more than 50 youths broke out, media reported.
“I’m just not going to go to the downtown area,” said Kelly Peyton, an office administrator in her 40s outside Washington DC. Appalled by last weekend’s killings, she refuses to drive into DC at night, as the city — which before the pandemic boasted some of the nation’s safest neighborhoods — is seeing a record surge in violent carjackings, many of which have been carried out by teenagers.
Police, conservative media and locals blamed the surge in violence on the anti-police climate that erupted — and some say was egged on by U.S. liberal media — after unarmed black man George Floyd was killed last year by a white police officer.
Rioters and looters took to the streets of New York and other major cities in May and early June last year, looting, burning down buildings and attacking business owners.
Mobs of rioters — many of them young, white and seemingly affluent — threw bricks, bottles and urine at police officers who were trying to control the crowds. The riots, which occurred in hundreds of cities nationwide, caused an estimated 2 billion U.S. dollars damage. DEFUND POLICE
Progressive Democrat politicians soon echoed activists’ calls to defund the police — a movement that seeks to divert or slash funding from police forces in U.S. cities nationwide.
In New York City, more than 5,300 cops retired or filed for retirement in 2020 — an increase of 75 percent from the previous year, according to New York Police Department data.
A retired police officer outside New York City who preferred to remain anonymous told Xinhua that many officers are retiring “because nobody backs cops anymore.”
He said some veteran cops are retiring a few years earlier, giving up a few thousand extra dollars in annual retirement compensation.
At the same time, a large chunk of cases against rioters in New York City have been dropped, according to WNBC, a New York news outlet. Critics said this was politically motivated by progressive prosecutors.
“I was in total shock that everything is being brushed off to the side,” local business owner Jessica Betancourt said in an interview with NBC, a national U.S. broadcaster. She owns an eyeglass store decimated by rioters. PANDEMIC, LOCKDOWNS AND VIOLENCE
A sense of desperation in some areas due to school closures and a stop to people’s daily routines caused by the pandemic has also led to an uptick in violent crime, said some researchers. Many youths have been out of school and without supervision for a year.
Patrick Sharkey, sociologist at Princeton University and expert on crime, told the Atlantic Monthly in a recent interview that the pandemic and the ensuing closures of schools and other institutions have contributed to the violence.
“Last year, everyday patterns of life broke down… Schools shut down. Young people were on their own. There was a widespread sense of a crisis… That type of destabilization is what creates the conditions for violence to emerge,” Sharkey said.
“As a place becomes more violent, people change their behavior. They become more likely to interpret uncertainty in an aggressive way, more likely to carry a weapon, more likely to act quickly or first if they feel threatened,” he said.
“This cascading effect, where violence begets violence, has been reinforced in the past year,” Sharkey added. QUIETLY RESTORING POLICE FUNDING
Some American cities, however, are either restoring funds to police departments or proposing to boost police budgets.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called for defunding the police in the midst of last year’s riots, said he would restore 92 million dollars for a new police precinct, after canceling the project last year.
The mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, who as a city councilman spearheaded efforts to defund the city’s police budget last year by 22 million dollars, recently proposed an increase of 27 million dollars.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed boosting the police department’s budget by 50 million dollars, after a 150 million dollar slash last year.
Still, much of the refunding leaves police with fewer funds than before the budget cuts.