Homicides increased in many major U.S. cities during 2020, the pandemic year. Cities in Texas were no exception.
This month, NPR reported on an alarming increase in homicides in 2020 which left many communities searching for answers given that the pandemic put many people on lockdown.
Rising murder rates were recorded n Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City in 2020. In Texas, the city of Dallas ended 2020 with the highest number of killings in more than 15 years.
The city ended the year with 251 murders. During the last nine days of the year, Dallas recorded more than one homicide every night, ABC 8 reported.
The rise in killings left community and police leaders struggling to find answers.
Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said he thought the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was a factor because it disrupted the usual pattern of criminal behavior, leading criminals to resort to different crimes more likely to result in bloodshed.
He cited the example of pickpockets. The closure of bars and restaurants meant fewer people were on the streets. Instead, pickpockets may have resorted to armed robbery, a crime more likely to lead to death or injury, Mata claimed.
Dallas’ killing spree included the actions of an alleged serial killer, police say. Jeremy Harris is accused of randomly shooting and killing three people he did not know – a man stopped at a red light, an SMU student walking in downtown Dallas, and a homeless man. Harris has also been charged with the killing of his former girlfriend’s father in Celina.
Governor Greg Abbott again sent state police to Dallas this year to help combat the rise in shootings in the city.
Texas’ largest city Houston also saw a spike in homicides in 2020. More than 400 people were killed in Houston in 2020. Killings spiked more than 42% over 2019 and were 100 higher than recorded homicide totals in both 2015 and 2016.
Austin saw considerably fewer homicides than Houston and Dallas. However, the 44 killings being investigated by police in 2020 compared to 31 the previous year and marked a 20-year high.
A new crime-fighting partnership was launched in late 2020 between federal, state, and local law enforcement as well as prosecution authorities. However, cuts to police funding in Austin provoked an angry response from Abbott who has promised legislation in 2021 to cut funding to cities that defund the police. Homicide rates spiked in other Texas cities including San Antonio in 2020.
Chicago reported 750 murders in 2020, a jump of more than 50% compared with 2019. By mid-December, Los Angeles recorded a 30% increase over the previous year with 322 homicides. New York City recorded 437 killings by Dec. 20, nearly 40% more than in 2019.
Data consultant Jeff Asher studied crime rates in over 50 cities nationwide and found surges in violent crime were not confined to big cities in 2020.
Asher said the murder rate has not jumped by more than 13% for over half a century. He predicts 2020 may have seen the biggest rise in homicides in the United States since records began, NPR reported.
Experts point to the economic downturn and the pandemic as possible factors. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, also highlighted a potential increase in confrontational crimes in which arguments turn violent. His research indicates a rise in confrontational killings may have coincided with the social unrest following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis in 2020.
The penalties for murder and manslaughter in Texas are extremely harsh. If you or a family member has been accused of these crimes you should contact our experienced Dallas defense team as soon as possible.