Rikers Island criminal justice
A corrections official watches inmates file out of a prison bakery after working the morning shift at the Rikers Island jail in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

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It’s not clear exactly why homicides have spiked in the United States during the pandemic. The same thing hasn’t happened in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in Europe, and there are cities in the United States that have bucked the trend as well.

Some of the nationwide increase in killings over the past 18 months may have to do with the disruption of social services, which were already thinner here than across the Atlantic. Some may be due to a surge of gun purchases during the pandemic. Some may be traceable to the erosion of trust between the police and public following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

(One factor that can be ruled out, though, is the adoption of more lenient criminal justice policies, including the early release of some prisoners, in liberal parts of the country. Killings have risen in all parts of the country, just as much in Republican-led cities as in cities with Democratic mayors, and just as much in counties with and without progressive prosecutors.)

There’s good reason to think, though, that bringing the coronavirus under control should be part of any strategy to confront the rising homicide rate. And, in fact, as the worst days of the pandemic have receded in New York City, homicides have fallen as well.

— David Alan Sklansky in Addressing Violent Crime More Effectively

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