In his State of the Union Address, President Biden falsely claimed that the coronavirus epidemic caused the recent rise in violent crime. “COVID left other scars, like the spike in violent crime in 2020, the first year of the pandemic,” he said.
But he was wrong, as a fact-check by the Washington Free Beacon noted: “There is no evidence that COVID contributed significantly to the crime spike. For one thing, most countries around the world saw a marked decrease in crime during their stay-at-home orders; the United States was an exception, suggesting that the crime spike was due to other factors,” such as soft-on-crime policies and anti-police attitudes in the U.S.
For example, Peru, the country hardest hit by the coronavirus, saw its murder rate fall by half during the coronavirus pandemic. Its homicide rate fell from 8.5 per 100,000 people in 2019 to 8.3 per 100,000 people in 2020, before dropping dramatically to 4.3 per 100,000 people in 2021, the second year of the pandemic.
Peru has had the world’s highest coronavirus death rate per million people. In 2020, its death rate from the coronavirus was triple the rate in America. Even today, according to public health statistics, Peru’s death rate per million people is nearly double America’s.
So if being affected by the pandemic caused murder to rise, Peru should have experienced massive increases in murder. But the opposite happened: violence fell there.
Peru is not unique. Murder rates fell in many countries, such as France, Italy, and Japan, in 2020, even though they suffered more economically from the pandemic. The U.S. economy shrank only 3.5% in 2020. Economies shrank much more in Europe: 7.9% in France, and 8.9% in Italy. Japan’s economy shrank 4.8%.
Mexico’s homicide rate fell in 2020, even though Mexico and the United States lost similar fractions of their citizens to the coronavirus according to official estimates, and unofficially, Mexico’s COVID death rate was far higher, due to Mexico’s massive underreporting of deaths (many victims were never tested in Mexico). Mexico’s murder rate fell, even though Mexico’s economy shrank much faster than America’s during the pandemic.
COVID-19 caused widespread hunger in Central America, unlike the United States. Yet murder rates fell in 2020 in Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, and El Salvador — all countries where malnutrition, already widespread, became worse due to the epidemic. Their economies shrank by percentages two or three times larger than the American economy in 2020, due to the coronavirus: Venezuela’s economy shrank 10%, El Salvador’s 9%, and Honduras’s 6.6%.
What, then, caused the rise in violent crime in the U.S. in 2020? According to the Free Beacon, “The simplest explanation—and the one most consistent with the data—is that crime surged in 2020 because of massive anti-cop riots in cities across the country. Though homicides were on the rise prior to the death of George Floyd, the spike accelerated in many cities almost as soon as the Black Lives Matter protests broke out.”
The rise in crime, it observes,
“comes amid a revival of jailbreak liberalism. Soros-backed prosecutors have let violent criminals off easy in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and countless other cities. The Democrat-dominated D.C. Council voted in January to reduce sentences for car-jacking, robberies, and gun-related felonies. Obama era civil rights policies have made schools reluctant to discipline and flag potentially dangerous students, which may be why a Virginia elementary school ignored warnings that a six-year-old was brandishing a gun.
Cops are also quitting in droves amid an unprecedented moral crisis—one many observers blame on the leftwing vilification of the police—driving up 911 response times as active shooter incidents reach a 20-year high.“
Police manpower was shrinking even before 2020, notes Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute, even though a “robust body of research has thoroughly illustrated that more police means less crime….There is also reason to believe that — in part because of the anti-police sentiments that characterized last summer’s protests — the cops we have left became less proactive.”
Another factor in rising violence is falling incarceration rates, which result in violent offenders being released from jail or not being jailed in the first place. The number of people in America’s prisons and jails dropped by 14% from 2019 to mid-2020.
Many murderers are spending less time in prison, due to recent “criminal justice reforms” — even though short sentences are less effective at deterring crime than longer sentences. In recent years, California made tens of thousands of violent offenders eligible for early release (including killers), and it earlier expanded parole for young adults who committed murder. In 2020, Washington, D.C.’s city government mademurderers eligible to seek release after 15 years, if they committed their crime before age 25 (which is true of many murderers). Some left-wing district attorneys have recently refused to prosecute any minors — even murderers — in adult court. So murderers who commit their crimes at age 17 will not be locked up for more than a few years. Juvenile killers often commit more violent crimes after being released.
Yet we know that domestic violence cases increased across Virginia under Northam’s shuttering of schools, businesses and municipalities.
Almost everybody did that. And where people did NOT do that, deaths were higher