For several major U.S. cities, this year has been riddled with gun violence, particularly within black communities.
In the seven months of 2020, Chicago saw over 1,500 of its residents being shot. Philadelphia saw over 900, and New York City saw over 500. These numbers were up dramatically from this same time last year (1,018 in Chicago, 701 in Philadelphia and 355 in New York).
The increase in gun violence has been particularly devastating for communities of color who are already disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact, as well as mounting racial tensions with white residents and white law enforcement.
“There is a multiplication factor happening right now. Not only is it summertime violence, but there is COVID-19, police protests and job loss. All of those factors are going to exacerbate violence, especially in communities that were already vulnerable,” said Christopher Herrmann, a former crime analyst supervisor with the NYPD and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
In New York City, from June 2019 to June of this year, the number of shooting victims have more than doubled, with 97 percent of the shooting victims in June being minorities. Out of the nearly 100 shooting victims in July, nearly all of them were also people of color.
While Chicago has long struggled with gun violence, shootings have increased by a devastating 76 percent from the same time last year, with the majority of the violence taking place in the city’s predominantly black communities on the South and West Sides. Children have also been caught in the crossfire. Recently, a 7-year-old girl, Natalia Wallace, was fatally shot during a family gathering over the Fourth of July weekend on the West Side.
Philadelphia also saw a bloody Fourth of July weekend, with over 30 people being shot. Twenty-three of these victims were shot within 24 hours. The city has seen a nearly 30 percent increase in homicides from the same time in 2019.
Bilal Qayyum, a Philadelphia anti-violence advocate, believes that job loss and the minimal opportunities prior to the pandemic have led to minority communities being extremely at risk for violence this summer.
“That kind of pressure consistently on a community, without any signs of changing, I really believe is helping drive the violence we’re seeing right now,” he said to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
According to a 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in recent decades, black neighborhoods have averaged five times as many violent crimes as predominantly white communities.
Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, also believes that the added stress on African Americans is playing a vital role in the bloodshed.
“People who get involved in violence, many of them are financially insecure, housing insecure, food insecure — their whole life is insecure,” he explained.
Atlanta, one of the major African American cities in the country, saw a 20 percent increase in shootings from the same time in 2019. Sadly, they also dealt with a particularly bloody Fourth of July weekend, with the youngest victim being an 8-year-old girl, Secoriea Turner, who was shot while riding in a car with her mother.
Due to police mistrust, following the death of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor amongst many others, residents are less likely to call 911 to report crimes
“One thing that’s been observed in a number of cities after there is a very high profile incident of police abuse, there is a fairly substantial uprising in response to that, where you commonly do see increases in violence in communities that are most often plagued by this problem,” Webster said. He went on to add, “Communities are desperate for resources, particularly at this time, and it goes beyond what a city can do. This is really a national public policy issue. People have to ask themselves how they can help the most vulnerable affected by the pandemic and economic impact of it.”
Webster offered a solution to the mistrust, saying that “To reduce this violence we are going to have to come up with policing models and public safety models that extend beyond police these communities feel invested in and trust.”
Ronnie Dunn, a professor of urban policy at Cleveland State University, referred to the surge in gun violence as “a perfect storm, a confluence of events that exposed all the societal inequities that exist.”
“The Black community lives in a state of trauma when you look at all the maladies that adversely impact them. These communities are the most vulnerable in our society, so a lot of these social and societal ills are going to manifest there earlier and more prominently.”