Every year, violent crime tends to rise during the summer as the warmer weather allows more people to engage in public more often. But across the country, cities are seeing summer-level violence numbers well before the peak summer months.
“We have a disturbing trend that started in January and continues through today,” said Paul Pazen, the chief of police for the Denver Police Department.
According to police data, Denver has seen its violent crime rise by 10.4% since last year. In New York City, violent crime has risen 27.8% from last year, a historically bloody year in the United States. In Chicago, it is a 34% increase, in Miami-Dade County, it is a 25% increase, and even in smaller cities, like Cincinnati, which has reached a new high for murders during the first quarter of the year, violent crime is far outpacing its totals from this time last year.
“I’ve never seen them this aggressive,” said Jason McBride, a secondary violence prevention specialist with the Struggle of Love Foundation, a gun violence advocacy group in Denver. “I’ve never seen them this disrespectful. I’ve never seen them this violent, and I’ve never seen them this willing to be violent and that’s just everybody’s thing now.”
In 1994, McBride was shot in the eye after a gang shot up a party he was attending. He says the violence he sees today is worse than when he was involved in gang activity then.
“I think this year’s [violent crime numbers] will dwarf what we’ve seen in the past,” he said.
McBride thinks the higher-than-normal violent crime numbers are due to economic and cultural pressures. He says many of the kids he engages with daily cannot find jobs because they have been taken up by adults who were laid off during the pandemic. In many communities, these jobs keep kids off the streets by giving them a productive opportunity instead of looking for trouble.
“We’re dealing with kids 11, 12, 13, 14, 15; those are the foot soldiers. Those are the kids that are really the ones that are being hurt,” said McBride.
“Some of these solutions involve law enforcement, but many of these solutions are about trying to interact and engage with young people; get them those positive activities, those pro-social activities. And families— getting them that support,” added Pazen.
The Centers for Disease Control released a report that advocates for gun owners to properly secure weapons in the household, saying it prevents their accessibility to kids and thieves.
McBride and Pazen believe it will take a lot more to fix was they call an epidemic.
“We’re talking about human lives we’re talking about families,” said Chief Pazen. “And that devastation continues throughout their lifetimes.”