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Expand chart

Pandemic-induced fear, economic hardship, domestic discord, racial strife and an influx of guns helped propel the urban homicide rate by a record amount last year, a new report says.

Why it matters: A drumbeat of dire reports about rising crime has left city dwellers justifiably scared — and policy makers should be addressing the pandemic and violent crime at the same time, the report's authors say.

  • Anti-violence programs should be a priority, according to the report released by Arnold Ventures — a philanthropy focused on solving societal problems — and the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.
  • Relations between communities and the police should be mended, the authors say, and street outreach workers should be deployed to help defuse tensions.

Driving the news: "In a sample of 34 cities, homicide rates were almost 30% higher in 2020 than in 2019, a jump that claimed an additional 1,268 lives," per the report.

  • Prior to 2020, the biggest single-year increase in the murder rate was 12.7%, in 1968, the report said.
  • While the three largest cities — New York, L.A. and Chicago — accounted for a disproportionate amount of the rise, higher homicide numbers were seen in cities large and small.
  • Aggravated assaults and gun assaults rose as well, according to the report's lead authors, criminology professor Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and Thomas Abt of the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.

What they're saying: "This is a policy call to action," Asheley Van Ness, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures, tells Axios.

  • "Now is the time that you need to be able to solve these problems at the same time — in terms of policing, community relations, violence."
  • "Just defeating the pandemic is going to be critical to lowering those violent crime rates."

The silver lining: Residential burglary rates dropped by 24%, the report found, and drug offenses by 30%.

  • But: motor vehicle theft rose by 13%.

Of note: So far, the elevated murder rate has carried into 2021, the New York Times reports.

  • A tally of homicides by the F.B.I. — which looked at different data from Arnold Ventures — found a 25% rise in 2020, which would "mean the United States surpassed 20,000 murders in a year for the first time since 1995," the NYT said.
  • Possible reasons include "the various stresses of the pandemic; the surge in gun sales during the crisis; and less belief in police legitimacy related to protests over police brutality."

The bottom line: Nobody knows exactly why crime rises and falls, but poverty and economic insecurity seem to be key drivers.

  • "Subduing the pandemic, increasing confidence in the police and the justice system, and implementing proven anti-violence strategies will be necessary to achieve a durable peace in the nation's cities," the Arnold Ventures report says.

Go deeper

Mar 23, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

How immigrants are fueling Minnesota's economy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Minnesota's growing immigrant population is a major force in the state's economy, according to a new report from the Minnesota Chamber Foundation.

  • The report, released Tuesday morning, details the "undeniable benefit" Minnesota's 470,000-plus foreign-born residents contribute to the state.

The big picture: Immigrants tend to be younger than the general population and they enter the workforce at higher rates than native-born residents.

  • They also play a key role in some of the state's most important and in-demand industries, from nursing to engineering.

By the numbers: Immigrants now make up more than 10% of the state's workforce, up from 2% in the 1980s, per the report.

  • Their spending power totals $12.4 billion — more than double what it was in 2013.
  • Minnesota's immigrant households paid $2 billion in state and local taxes in 2019.
  • As of 2018, the state was home to 18,000 immigrant entrepreneurs, whose businesses employ 52,000 workers.

Yes, but: Our immigrant entrepreneurship levels actually lag the national data. The report argues more support and access to funding is needed to address that gap.

The bottom line: International migration has helped the state stave off negative effects of an otherwise aging population and declining birth rates.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Gun control groups join fight against filibuster

A hearse carries the body of Police Officer Eric Talley, killed in the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Chet Strange/Getty Images

Gun control groups are joining the progressive fight to end the filibuster as the Senate voting rule threatens their goal of passing comprehensive gun reform.

Why it matters: The House recently passed two gun bills, but neither stand a chance of getting the 60 votes needed in the 50-50 Senate. Senate Democrats have already been talking about getting rid of the filibuster to pass other legislation through a simple 51-vote majority.

Harris slams "false choice" that gun control means getting rid of 2nd Amendment

Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday that she's "not willing to give up" on pushing the Senate to pass gun control bills before President Biden turns to executive action, and she slammed Republicans for promoting the "false choice" that commonsense gun laws mean getting rid of the 2nd Amendment.

Why it matters: Republican lawmakers have frequently attacked Democrats for pushing their agenda on gun control in the wake of mass shootings, insisting that the measures would be ineffective and only harm responsible gun owners.

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