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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After a year in which murders spiked in the U.S., homicides are already trending up in many cities, presaging what is likely to be a violent summer.

Why it matters: The rise in homicides is a public health crisis that has multiple interlocking causes, which makes solving it that much more difficult. We're still a long way from the murderous days of the 1990s, but rising gun violence is destroying lives and complicating efforts to help cities recover from COVID-19.

Driving the news: From Washington to Louisville, Kentucky, New York to Oakland, California, and Kansas City to Atlanta, murder rates are trending up in U.S. cities large and small.

  • A sample of 37 cities with data available for the first three months of 2021 collected by the crime analyst Jeff Asher indicates murders are up 18% over the same period in 2020.
  • The continued increase comes after a year in which major U.S. cities experienced a 33% rise in homicides, and 63 of the 66 largest police jurisdictions saw an increase in at least one category of violent crime, according to a report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Between the lines: While it may be tempting to dismiss 2020 and the early indicators in 2021 as aberrations caused by the pandemic, murder rates were already ticking upward in the years before the pandemic.

The intrigue: Criminologists still haven't settled on a single explanation for why violent crime dropped drastically from the 1990s, and they're even less certain why it's risen so dramatically over the past 16 months.

Yes, but: Even if 2021 eclipses last year's murder numbers, America will remain a far safer country than it was during the most violent years of the 1990s.

What's next: A violent summer on America's streets appears likely, given that homicide already appears to be trending above last year's spike.

  • Homicide rates historically spike during the summer months, when the hotter weather puts more people on the streets, and while vaccination coverage is increasing, the pandemic and all its knock-on effects won't be finished by then.
  • "Summer 2021 is going to be abnormally violent," John Roman, a senior fellow at the economics, justice and society group at NORC at the University of Chicago, wrote this year. "It is the new normal."

The bottom line: The historic decline in murder over the past few decades was accompanied by mass incarcerations and increasingly brutal policing, leading to what the criminologist Patrick Sharkey termed "the uneasy peace."

  • As America reckons a new murder wave with policing in the post-George Floyd killing era, it needs to find a way to a lasting peace that features both safety and justice.

Go deeper

54 mins ago - Health

Biden reaches agreements with Uber and Lyft to give free rides to vaccine sites

A coronavirus vaccination site in Miami on May 10. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Biden administration has reached agreements with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to coronavirus vaccination sites through July 4, the White House announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The free rides, starting in the next two weeks, are part of the Biden administration's push to administer at least one vaccine dose to 70% of U.S. adults by Independence Day.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Biden officials green-light nation's first big offshore wind project

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration today gave final approval to Vineyard Wind, a project off the Massachusetts coast slated to be the country's first large-scale offshore wind farm.

Why it matters: While the green-light for the long-proposed projected was expected, it marks a key step in White House plans to help spur development of a suite of coastal projects off New York, New Jersey and other states.

Global temperatures are cooler in 2021 than other recent years

Data: NASA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

With a moderate La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, global temperatures in 2021 are running decidedly cooler when compared to recent years.

Why it matters: The lack of a new warmest year record in 2021 could sap some of the sense of urgency among policymakers in the U.S. and abroad during a critical year for enacting stricter emissions cuts to meet the Paris Agreement's targets.