Claim: COVID caused the crime spike
Who said it: President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. The president said that among the “scars” left on the country by the pandemic was “the spike in violent crime in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.”
Why it matters: Ever since violent crime exploded in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, Democrats have worked to blame the spike on the pandemic rather than their own policies.
Context: America is in the midst of a massive crime spike. Homicides surged by 30 percent between 2019 and 2020–the largest single-year increase on record—and violent crime remains well above its pre-pandemic levels.
These trends come amid a revival of jailbreak liberalism. Soros-backed prosecutors have let violent criminals off easy in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and countless other cities. The Democrat-dominated D.C Council voted in January to reduce sentences for car-jacking, robberies, and gun-related felonies. Obama era civil rights policies have made schools reluctant to discipline and flag potentially dangerous students, which may be why a Virginia elementary school ignored warnings that a six-year-old was brandishing a gun.
Cops are also quitting in droves amid an unprecedented moral crisis—one many observers blame on the leftwing vilification of the police—driving up 911 response times as active shooter incidents reach a 20-year high.
The murder rate did decline slightly in 2022, but other forms of crime increased. All this has increased voters’ anxiety about crime—61 percent told Pew it was a “very important” issue when deciding how to vote in the midterms—and supercharged surveillance efforts: New York City announced in September that it would install two security cameras on every Subway car to reassure riders of their safety.
Analysis: There is no evidence that COVID contributed significantly to the crime spike. For one thing, most countries around the world saw a marked decrease in crime during their stay-at-home orders; the United States was an exception, suggesting that the crime spike was due to other factors.
It is also difficult to attribute the surge to the economic hardship caused by COVID. Recessions are not correlated with homicide rates, and—as many progressives have noted in their attempt to downplay the crime spike—property offenses declined during the pandemic, when the economy was weakest. Thefts and robberies only began climbing again in 2022 after Biden’s much-vaunted economic recovery. These are not the patterns one would expect if the crime spike were driven by hardship.
The simplest explanation—and the one most consistent with the data—is that crime surged in 2020 because of massive anti-cop riots in cities across the country. Though homicides were on the rise prior to the death of George Floyd, the spike accelerated in many cities almost as soon as the Black Lives Matter protests broke out.
Since then, so-called “progressive prosecutors” have sought the smallest possible penalties for violent criminals and refused to prosecute misdemeanors like hit-and-runs. It is difficult to quantify the costs of that lenience. Almost as difficult as it is to connect the crime spike with COVID.
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