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Op-Ed

Murder Spike Should Spur Bold Response From Politicians

In an oped published by the Houston Chronicle, criminologists Thomas Abt and Richard Rosenfeld describe a path out of a most violent year.

Following up on their July oped, criminologists Thomas Abt and Richard Rosenfeld published a piece in the Houston Chronicle calling on elected officials to take bold action in response to rising murder rates.

Major U.S. cities were likely struck by the single largest annual increase in murders last year — 30 percent growth from 2019 to 2020. The city of Houston alone saw a 40 percent year-over-year spike, with more than 400 people killed.

“This outcome was unfortunately foreseeable,” Abt and Rosenfeld wrote. “In July, we wrote an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle urging policymakers not to become complacent about the sudden dip in nonviolent crime caused by lockdowns around the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, our follow-up research, supported by Arnold Ventures and the Council on Criminal Justice, has documented an unprecedented nationwide jump in homicide.”

Their oped directs policymakers to follow three key paths to reduce crime. First, restart proactive violence reduction efforts that may have been slowed or halted as part of COVID-19 precautions. Second, engage earnestly with the crisis in policing that was brought to national attention after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Finally, provide COVID-19 vaccines, protective equipment and any necessary healthcare to the police, public health and community-based workers who work to curb violent street crime.

To learn more, read: “Murders spiked in 2020. That's exactly why we need policing reforms.”

Abt is director of the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice and author of “Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence — and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets.” Rosenfeld is professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a former president of the American Society of Criminology.


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