In a frightening trend across America, police agencies in numerous large urban centres say they’re bracing for the most violent summer yet. Given the record-breaking violence of last year, that’s a pretty sobering statement.
Over the weekend of May 15th-16th, 48 people were shot in Chicago, including a 2-year-old girl, a 13-year-old boy and two Chicago police officers.
“There’s two things we have to do as police officers. One is, obviously, we have to stop people from hurting others. But the larger issue is how we engage the whole of government in all of the community to stop people from wanting to mete out violence,” said Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown as the city continues to outpace 2020’s shooting and homicide totals.
Over the May 24th weekend in Chicago, Illinois, another 55 people were shot and 11 were killed in what news outlets called ‘the city’s deadliest weekend of 2021.’
Superintendent Brown blames, in part, the sharp rise in the number of violent offenders released due to COVID, many of whom simply removed their Electronic Monitoring Bracelets.
“Electronic Monitoring was designed to ensure that individuals facing low-level, non-violent crimes appear in court. It was not designed for violent offenders,” said a Cook County Sheriff’s Department statement.
Crime numbers for this year have already surpassed those of last year, lending credence to the fear this will be an incredibly violent summer in the Windy City.
In Kansas City, where 2019 delivered an all-time record for homicides, the violence shows no signs of abating in the middle of COVID’s second year. The violence in Kansas City appears to centre on those areas with the highest rates of evictions.
“The Washington-Wheatley neighborhood, just south of the historic 18th and Vine District, is home to an area with the highest rate of shootings in the city. It also has one of the city’s highest eviction rates. In fact, of the 10 Jackson County census tracts with the highest numbers of shootings, all but one also had higher than average eviction rates, according to an analysis by The Star of data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive and Princeton University’s Eviction Lab.“
“The same pattern holds across Missouri, with the top cities for evictions — Independence, Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and Columbia — also leaders in gun homicides as of last year.”
Housing problems, including evictions, blight, and homelessness, fuel the city’s gun violence, researchers say, along with deficits in a host of social determinants of health including income, access to food, healthy living environments and quality education.
All those problems are set to get worse this summer, as the city faces a tidal wave of evictions if a federal moratorium put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic expires June 30.
In Portland, Oregon, Portland Police Union President Daryl Turner warns of the impending danger in a blistering statement issued May 13, 2021.
“We need to talk about the elephant in the room: gun violence. We are on the precipice of a gang war; I’ve seen this before in the ’90s here in Portland and it’s back in full force. Our elected leaders can no longer turn a blind eye and blame it on the pandemic. The surge in gun violence is directly related to the defunding of police—the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is catastrophically understaffed, our specialty units have been disbanded, and our response time to calls for service has understandably increased“
The police force in Oregon’s largest city has responded to 357 shootings as of May 9, an increase of over 100 percent from the same time span last year.
Portland dealt with a jump in violence in 2020, with both shootings and murders skyrocketing, along with near-nightly riots that regularly diverted attention from 911 calls.
But the city hasn’t brought back the Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT), and none of the new funding went to the city’s police department. That’s on top of the Portland City Council cutting money for the police force in 2020.
Other major American cities are no different.
So far in 2021, New York City has seen 146 homicides so far, up from 115 for the same time period in 2020.
In Dallas, Texas, they’ve seen 75 homicides, also up from last year.
Police in Madison, Wisconsin – also fearing another violent summer – rolled out their strategies for reducing all levels of crime, not just violent crime.
Like the other cities I’ve mentioned, Madison is also seeing a big spike in ‘shots fired’ incidents compared to last year.
In 2020, Madison saw 250 incidents in which shots were fired, with 48 people hit by gunfire; 1,111 shell casings were recovered, more than double the total for the previous two years; and there were 10 homicides, more than 2018 and 2019 combined.
Madison and Dane County have produced a long-awaited “Roadmap to Reducing Violence” that seeks to take a comprehensive, public health approach to a dangerous and vexing challenge.
The city and county are also launching a broad Madison Dane County Violence Prevention Coalition that will use the 26-page roadmap to drive action and inform decisions.
“Gun violence is a critical problem for Madison to address,” Police Chief Shon Barnes said. The large number of shell casings recovered alone, he said, “reflects a significant volume of gunfire in our city and is something that no member of the community should view as acceptable. The city can’t get to the point — like many other cities have — where residents become numb to routine gun violence.”
“Violence is extremely pervasive in Dane County, and much of it, such as domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and sexual assault, continues to fly under the radar,” said Faye Zemel, director of prevention and systems advocacy for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, or DAIS.
“Cities all across the country have seen increased rates of violence due to the pandemic and its economic impacts,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “Violence has an impact not only on the individuals directly involved but also their families, the community and our society as a whole.”
What About Canada?
Lest Canadians hop onto their high moral horse and believe they are above such things, Calgary Police Service notes that while violent crime dropped in 2020, shootings rose dramatically, exceeding the city’s 5-year average.
The surge in gang shootings in BC’s Lower Mainland, gang shootings Toronto’s downtown core and the gang violence in Ottawa’s city centre all give little reason for us to hope this year will be any better than last. All the signs point to Canada following the same violent trend as our cousins south of the border.
This isn’t the worst of the news, however.
Through all of this violence and devastation our Liberal government on Ottawa continues to ignore those committing all this violence, preferring to focus on seizing and destroying legally-owned firearms from licensed Canadian firearm owners.
But what about all those violent gang members, drug dealers and thugs?
Ottawa hasn’t shown the slightest interest in taking away their illegal guns.