Murder Rates Reached Horrific Levels in 2020. Here's Why and What Will Happen in 2021

AP Photo/John Minchillo

I hate to say “I told you so,” because nobody likes that guy.

But tell you so, I did. Way back in June of 2020, as lockdowns were going strong and riots broke out all over the country, I wrote up a brief history of violent crime in America and predicted we’d soon see more of it.

That was when “defund the police” went from radical fringe to mainstream urban politics. It was an insane idea, opposed by 80% of the country, but supported by about 100% of the agitators and activists who dominate urban politics now. While none of us were looking, the idea of public safety as a bedrock concern in American cities gave way to all sorts of other boutique concerns and race-based tropes. Public safety and quality of life weren’t just sidelined, city governments actively militated against both.

Austin, Texas, for example, legalized homeless camping all over town (except at city hall) in the summer of 2019. The city’s quality of life quickly deteriorated, but municipal politics being what they are — very, very far left — the city council members and mayors haven’t been run out of town as they deserve. If you asked the local alt-newspaper, it’s still on board with both homeless camping and defunding the police. The rest of the local media mostly casts an unskeptical eye at whatever the city does.

Austin was only following the trends set on camping by Seattle, Los Angeles, and some other cities. None of those cities have fared well; Seattle’s even accused of “dying.” The left has turned downtown Portland into a dystopian nightmare. But has the rot resulted in major redirections of any of these cities’ politics? Has anyone learned enough to make serious changes?

Back in June 2020, I wrote this about the 1990s crime rates:

One of the most cited reasons for exploding crime was activist judges allowing criminals to serve comically reduced sentences before putting them back on the streets. Another was a lack of having enough police officers on the streets. Recidivism, the tendency of criminals to be repeat offenders in a revolving door justice system, was also a hotly discussed cause of crime. No less important was the breakdown of the family over the same decades. The Colombian and other drug cartels also came of age in the early 1980s, feeding drugs and crime into Miami, Los Angeles, and soon enough just about every city in America.

1991 through 1993 were the worst years for total recorded violent crime in decades. In 1991, 24,700 Americans were murdered. In 1992, 23,760 were murdered. In 1993, murderers killed 24,530. Rape numbers roughly tracked the murder rate, and aggravated assaults topped one million each year from 1990 to 1997. Violent crime was out of control.

So where are we now? Instead of activist judges, we have activist district attorneys, paid for by George Soros, who don’t even let criminal cases get to the level of getting ripped apart by activist judges. Austin has two of those, one at the county and one at the city. Travis County Attorney Delia Garza ran and won on a platform of decriminalizing some crimes and prosecuting police officers for past cases that have already been investigated. This comes in an environment in which Austin defunded police by about a third of its budget. The results of this are easy to predict. Crime will increase and the number of police officers in the city will decrease. But the beat goes on, in city after city.

Cities defunded the police. The result: 2020 crime statistics put the murder rate right back where we were in the 1990s.

A new crime reporting system released by the FBI shows that the murder rate in virtually every city in the United States is at its highest levels in more than two decades.

In 2020, the country saw more homicides than in any year since 1998. Experts came to that conclusion after looking at reported quarterly data from roughly 12,000 agencies in various cities and states.

The spike, totaling at over 20,000 recorded homicides, was the largest one-year increase in U.S. history. Every city that reported data saw at least a 20%-25% jump in murders.

And that’s with Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York slow-walking their crime reporting. They will surely skew the murder rate upward once they do report. Democrats rule those and other cities. Democrats defunded police and talk “equity” while their citizens are bleeding and dying. The heavily biased, and often clueless, media fail to report the facts about anything, so invested they are in the Democratic Party and in trashing Republicans.

All of our urban crime problems are the result of Democrats enacting their policies. All of them.

Cities run by Democrats failed to stop the 2020 riots when they started. Result: Burned out neighborhoods and a feeling of unease in many cities, and more violent crime since. Riots just seem to never stop in Portland. Credible media would point out that the activists in Austin and elsewhere really want their cities to do what Portland does. But we don’t have credible media at the local level anymore. We have partisan mouthpieces instead.

2020 introduced another dynamic that was mainly Democratic in origin, and which probably contributed to the murder rates: lockdowns. Americans have never ever been locked down for months on end en masse for any reason. To impose such draconian measures without much thought for the consequences was the height of irresponsibility. Yet lockdowns have been imposed, ramping up stress in several ways. Millions lost jobs and whole businesses, jeopardizing everything from their financial security to the place they live to their ability to educate their children — who were also locked down, kept away from their friends, kept from just being able to go outside and burn off energy. Parents had to deal with all that, plus being around each other more hours of the day than they’re used to. But to hear some Democrats now, the lockdowns should continue. And of course, police deserve to be defunded. Never mind the effects of Democrat policies on the family over the past few decades. They don’t learn. The media doesn’t learn. The nation won’t redirect from the course we’re on anytime soon.

As the Washington Examiner article linked above points out, we’re not at 1980s murder levels. 2020 saw about 6.22 murders per 100,000, while in the 1980s, murder rates exceeded 10 per 100,000.

But the path we’re on looks like it will get us back to those horrific murder rates, and perhaps worse. When we could use some serious federal leadership, Joe Biden is atop the most woke, least sensible administration in American history. He has unleashed chaos on the border and consistently signals he does not support basic public safety anywhere in the country. He panders and demagogues rather than leads. His cabinet is full of far-left activists. He tends toward wanting to control law-abiding citizens while leaving crime out of control. He reacts to a mass terrorist attack by seeking to disarm law-abiding Americans. He’s not just a poor choice for this moment; Joe Biden may have been the worst choice possible.

The remedies are before us. Properly fund police departments and support them while prosecuting misconduct when it does happen. Prosecute lower-level crimes again to protect life and property and as a means of deterring worse. Get rid of district attorneys who use their offices to neglect crime while prosecuting police officers. End lockdowns and never engage them again, and pass laws providing prosecution and the threat of imprisonment on officials who overstep their constitutional authority in the name of a “crisis.” Break the teachers’ unions and let kids get back to school. Let American work and play again.

But it looks like we’ll have to learn the hard way what some unlearned so quickly across 2020. Violent crime is on track to get worse in 2021.

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