Brief # 19 – Social Justice
Crime is on the Rise in U.S. Cities: Is there a Plan?
By Erika Shannon
July 5, 2021
The year 2021 has, fortunately, brought people many things to look forward to. With the pandemic beginning to get under control, people are excited to resume their normal lives. Unfortunately, this year has also brought over 250 mass shootings in the United States, along with a rise in other violent crimes. While pandemic-related restrictions lowered crime rates in certain places, many cities saw a continued rise in crime, even during the pandemic. Cities across the U.S. are reeling in the wake of their citizens being shot, and often killed, fairly regularly. Many of these shootings are youth related.
The rise in violent crimes in the past several years does not come as a shock to many, as racial and political tensions have been rising in the U.S. With Donald Trump at the reins for four years, there weren’t many laws introduced that were specifically aimed at reducing gun violence and crime in America. We saw a “law and order” approach that fell flat at making any true leeway. There is hope that the new administration will follow through on promises to reduce crime.
Besides the fact that the U.S. has begun resuming life as normal in many places post-coronavirus, it is clear that there are other factors at play with the rise in crime. The fact is there are too many guns already on the streets, unregistered, and in the wrong hands. Another potential reason for the rise in gun violence could be increased tensions between law enforcement and minority communities. We have seen a rise in police-involved shootings in the past years, and minorities are often on the other end of the officer’s gun. Finally rates of youth unemployment and gang related violence also are contributing to the spike in urban crime.
The Biden Administration has been taking steps to aid in gun control reform. There were four executive orders put forward by President Biden back in April of this year to help get more guns off the streets and out of the wrong hands. On June 23rd, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to gun crime and ensure public safety. The announcement is partially in response to the fact that in large cities, homicides rose 30% in 2020, and gun assaults rose 8%. The strategy will include using the American Rescue Plan to help state, local, territorial, and tribal governments get funding to put more police officers on the street with proper training. The emphasis is on proper training; with all the police-involved shootings, there have been cries to reform the police for the past several years. Fixing the rise in violence will go hand in hand with better policing across America, though it will take some time. In the plan, there will also be funding for Community Violence Intervention Programs and summer employment opportunities for youth. In addition, the new strategy will take aim at keeping guns out of the wrong hands, using the ATF’s resources to stem the flow of firearms used in crimes, as well as launching firearms trafficking strike forces.
There is fear that with rising temperatures and people beginning to socialize for the first time in over a year, there will likely be an even larger spike in shootings and gun crimes. People were cooped up and away from others in large social gatherings for quite awhile.
With the amount of mass shootings and other forms of violence soaring throughout the nation, many wonder if there will ever be true progress towards reducing the number of violent crimes. While intervention and funding from the federal government is a part of the solution, individual cities must also focus on what they can do to reduce violent crimes in their cities. A potential place to start would be putting more funding to the side for after-school programs, so that our youth have something productive to focus on. Studies show that with a constructive outlet, at-risk youth are less likely to commit crimes. Cities also need to stop defunding their public schools, as this act often disproportionately targets African-American and Hispanic communities; these are the communities already hit hardest by violence. When schools lose funding, they are forced to do things like fire teachers and cut sports or arts programs. This leads to overcrowded classrooms where students cannot get the help they need because staff is so overwhelmed. When kids are disinterested in school and have no opportunities to find hobbies, some kids turn to violence. This includes anything from bullying others and fighting on the playground to more serious crimes, such as sexual assault. While there is no simple solution to the problem, state and local governments must work together with the federal government to figure out what can be done to reduce violent crime across our nation.