The coronavirus pandemic and the racial unrest in the United States have spawned an extraordinary rise in urban violence. Never seen since the 90s. Under the theme “Law and OrderTrump uses it in the hope that she will secure his re-election.
COVID-19 is exacerbating the root causes of violence in this country where guns are virtually in free circulation. The health crisis has exacerbated the endemic problems that underlie the gun violence of black youth gangs in urban ghettos: racism, poverty, unemployment, drugs, accessibility of guns, and single parent families.
In Chicago, homicides jumped 39% in the last week of June and the first week of July compared to last year. In Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, black children have been victimized by stray bullets in crossfire between rival gangs. In New York City, a one-year-old baby was shot dead in his stroller while his family was picnicking in a park.
In New York City, the homicide rate for the first half of the year is up 23% as arrests have fallen 62% from a year ago. Arrests for gun possession have dropped 67% as shootings are skyrocketing. Those for drug trafficking or possession fell by 85%. Arrestations by the city’s anti-gang unit have decreased by 90%.
This increase in violence has aroused the indignation of elected officials from poor neighborhoods who accuse the police of passivity in retaliation for the hostility of the population towards them. Police departments are reportedly limiting their interventions in response to protests against police brutality and systemic racism that erupted after George Floyd’s assassination at the hands of Minneapolis Police.
Senior municipal police officials admit that police are reluctant to make arrests for fear of being subjected to complaints of racial discrimination and facing disciplinary investigations. One of the New York City Police officials, Terence A. Monahan, said in a radio interview that many officers fear arrest if they take “proactive” action against criminals. Police officers who know the red light districts are reluctant to carry out checks on individuals suspected of possessing a concealed weapon for fear of being accused of racial profiling or, worse, of being involved in a shooting resulting in the death of the suspect.
In addition, the release of thousands of inmates from overcrowded US prisons to contain the spread of the coronavirus has helped deepen the cycle of gun violence by sending these criminals back onto the streets. At the same time, a large number of investigators specializing in the repression of street gangs have been reassigned to social distancing patrols or redeployed to monitor anti-police demonstrations.
Morale among peace officers is at its lowest. Across the United States, thousands of police officers have decided to retire or resign.
These dramatic conditions can only worsen between now and the November elections. Crime is certainly not going to magically decrease. And Trump, by deploying federal agents to several major cities, is deliberately making the situation worse. That’s what he’s looking for. Get voters, panicked by urban violence, to vote for him.