Crime rose unevenly when stay-at-home orders lifted. The racial disparity is the widest in years.

While crime remained stable in White-majority

areas, it peaked in Black-majority areas during

the summer after stay-at-home orders were lifted.

Mid-March - Mid-May

Stay-at-home orders in place

125 crimes

per 100k

2018-2019

average

100

2020

Black-majority

neighborhoods

75

50

Average

2020

25

White-majority

neighborhoods

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Dec.

Data as of Sept. 5. The drop in August is due to a

lag in reporting crimes at many police departments.

Mid-March - Mid-May

Stay-at-home

orders in place

Black-majority areas

125 crimes

per 100k

2018-2019

average

100

2020

75

While crime remained stable in White-majority areas,

it peaked in Black-majority neighborhoods during the

summer months after stay-at-home orders were lifted.

50

Average

2020

25

White-majority areas

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Dec.

Data as of Sept. 5. The drop in August is due to a lag in reporting

crimes at many police departments.

Mid-March - Mid-May

Stay-at-home

orders in place

Black-majority

neighborhoods

125 violent crimes

per 100k residents

100

2020

2018-2019

average

75

While crime remained stable in White-majority

areas, it peaked in Black-majority neighborhoods

during the summer months after stay-at-home orders

were lifted.

50

Average

2020

25

White-majority

neighborhoods

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Dec.

Data as of Sept. 5. The drop in August is due to a lag in reporting crimes at many police departments.

Mid-March - Mid-May

Stay-at-home

orders in place

Black-majority

neighborhoods

125 violent crimes

per 100k residents

100

2020

2018-2019

average

75

While crime remained stable in White-majority

areas, it peaked in Black-majority neighborhoods

during the summer months after stay-at-home orders

were lifted.

50

Average

2020

25

White-majority

neighborhoods

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Dec.

Data as of Sept. 5. The drop in August is due to a lag in reporting crimes at many police departments.

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Police found Alani Hutchins, 16, slain in a car in June. A stray bullet hit Michael Goodlow III, 4, in the head on the Fourth of July. Someone shot Victrail Mora, 14, in the back of the head near the steps to his mother’s apartment on Aug. 12.

At least 17 children have died violently in St. Louis this year, a tally that has shocked residents and underscored a widening racial crime disparity in that city and others amid the coronavirus pandemic. As the upward trajectory of crime continues, the gulf between the rates of violence in Black and White communities widened by 106 percent in the nation’s largest cities.

A Washington Post analysis of 27 cities showed the rolling rate of violent crime in majority-White neighborhoods fell by 30 percent while stay-at-home orders were in effect, dipping to its lowest point in two years. Once the orders were lifted, violent crime in those neighborhoods returned to pre-pandemic levels, but stayed below average when compared with 2018 and 2019.

In majority-Black neighborhoods, the rate of violence remained relatively steady while stay-at-home orders were in effect, but rose dramatically after orders were lifted, peaking at 133 crimes per 100,000 residents in July, the highest level in the past three years.

Crime in White and Black neighborhoods fluctuates month-to-month, historically spiking in summer. But this year, the rate of increase in Black neighborhoods has been most dramatic, peaking higher than in 2018 and 2019 by about 10 and 8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, violent crime rates in predominantly Asian, Hispanic and White neighborhoods have fluttered beneath their recent summer peaks.

In most cities, the violent crime rate in

Black-majority areas was above average

throughout the summer, while crime rates in

White-majority areas remained relatively

stable. There were exceptions though.

In Baltimore, there is a wide gap between

Black and White neighborhoods, but crime

rates overall are down this year.

Milwaukee

Stay-at-home order in place

15 crimes

per 100k

2018-2019

average

10

2020

5

2020

Average

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Little Rock

15 crimes

per 100k

10

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Omaha

15 crimes

per 100k

10

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Baltimore

10 crimes

per 100k

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

L.A.

10 crimes

per 100k

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

D.C.

10 crimes

per 100k

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

At the time of this analysis, data for Nashville was

only available through early August.

In most cities, the violent crime rate in Black-majority

areas was above average throughout the summer, while

crime rates in White-majority areas remained relatively

stable. There were exceptions though. In Baltimore, there

is a wide gap between Black and White neighborhoods,

but crime rates overall are down this year.

Milwaukee

Stay-at-home order in place

15 crimes

per 100k

2018-2019

average

10

2020

5

2020

Average

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Little Rock

15 crimes

per 100k

10

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Omaha

15 crimes

per 100k

10

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Baltimore

10 crimes

per 100k

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

L.A.

10 crimes

per 100k

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

D.C.

10 crimes

per 100k

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

At the time of this analysis, data for Nashville was only

available through early August.

In most cities, the violent crime rate in Black-majority areas was above average throughout

the summer, while crime rates in White-majority areas remained relatively stable. There were

exceptions though. In Baltimore, there is still a wide gap between Black and White

neighborhoods, but crime rates overall are down this year.

Milwaukee

Little Rock

Omaha

Stay-at-home order in place

15 crimes

per 100k

2018-2019

average

10

2020

5

2020

Average

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Nashville

Chicago

Detroit

10 crimes

per 100k

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Baltimore

L.A.

D.C.

10 crimes

per 100k

5

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Nov.

At the time of this analysis, data for Nashville was only available through early August.

The analysis examined more than 800,000 crimes in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle. To arrive at its findings, The Post analyzed data from police departments, then merged geocoded reports with neighborhood income and demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The crimes analyzed include homicide, sexual assault and rape, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, theft, auto theft and thefts from vehicles.

The analysis shows crime rates dropped in March after stay-at-home orders were imposed to combat the pandemic. Rates flattened in April, but when orders began to lift in May, violent crime rose in majority-Black neighborhoods, surging past levels in 2018 and 2019.

Image: A makeshift memorial for Alissa King, 17, who was fatally shot, is seen on Topliff Street in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester on April 16. (Angela Rowlings/Boston Herald)

A message of law and order

The Post’s findings come as debate rages over policing, crime and unrest in the nation’s cities.

President Trump and some Republicans have seized upon violence and occasional looting that followed the shooting of a Black man by Kenosha, Wis., police and the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers to portray cities as dangerously chaotic and Democratic leaders as ineffectual at restoring order.

Trump has also linked a rise in homicides in a number of big cities to the Floyd protests and activists’ efforts to cut funding for police departments, a contention for which criminologists say there is little evidence. In July, the president deployed federal agents to nine cities affected by crime increases, often over the objections of local officials. St. Louis was one of them.

“There’s not just one pattern that’s really leading to divergent trends in cities,” said Patrick Sharkey, a Princeton University professor and criminologist. “You have the lockdowns and then you have the response to the George Floyd incident and the proliferation of demonstrations against police brutality and racial justice, and the resulting response from police departments.”

The “law and order” message appears aimed at winning over suburban voters whose support for Trump has wavered ahead of November’s election.

“We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets,” Trump tweeted in late August as National Guard troops were deployed to Wisconsin.

Image: President Trump tours an area affected by civil unrest in Kenosha, Wis., on Sept. 1. Kenosha saw multiple nights of angry demonstrations after a White police officer there shot a Black man in the back at close range. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, protesters and some big-city leaders have pushed for shifting funds away from police departments to services like mental health and drug treatment, arguing that minority communities have been overpoliced for too long and that social services are a better way to address the root causes of crime.

The uptick in crime in Black neighborhoods has left some families wondering how much more they can take, following a health crisis, an economic collapse and a summer of unrest. Deeauna Mora, the aunt of Victrail Mora in St. Louis, said that when he was shot and killed, the family already was grappling with the teen’s father, who is incarcerated, having contracted the coronavirus.

Deeauna Mora describes herself as a moderate Democrat who supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but said she was also in favor of federal agents being deployed to St. Louis to help combat crime. She said local leaders haven’t done enough.

Image: Deeauna Mora sits on the couch where her 14-year-old nephew, Victrail Mora, often slept at her home in Berkeley, Mo. (Whitney Curtis for The Washington Post)

“He had dreams of going to college and being successful. They stripped that from him. He didn’t have a chance,” she said. “The way it’s looking, it’s not getting better. We are already dealing with covid[-19]. To have to deal with that on top of losing someone so young and so close, it’s very shocking.”

‘A crisis and it’s getting worse’

Children with gunshot wounds are arriving in unprecedented numbers at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, carried by wailing ambulances or cradled in the arms of desperate parents. The hospital has already treated 114 children through Oct. 8 — more than all of 2019 — and the onslaught shows no sign of slowing amid a surging murder rate.

Lindsay Clukies, co-director of emergency medical services at the hospital, said the average age of victims is dropping and that more are arriving with high-caliber gunshot wounds. In July, she treated an infant hit by a bullet. More than 90 percent of the victims this year have been Black.

“This is a crisis and it’s getting worse,” Clukies said. “The screams and cries of a parent when you tell them their child has lost their life to a bullet is something that you never forget and something that keeps you up at night.”

Image: A close friend of Davon McNeal is comforted after expressing his feelings about his slain friend as a crowd gathers for the July 9 celebration of the life of the 11-year-old sixth-grader, who was fatally shot by a stray bullet after a July 4 anti-violence cookout organized by his mother in Washington, D.C. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

The young victims are the tragic edge of a wave of violence in the city. While serious crime is down slightly overall, through mid-August homicides were up 34 percent compared with 2019, according to St. Louis police. But the toll has fallen unevenly across the city.

In mid-March, ahead of stay-at-home orders in the city, majority-Black neighborhoods were averaging about one homicide every four days. By the end of July, those same neighborhoods were averaging about two homicides a day. Meanwhile, the rate of homicides in White-majority neighborhoods in St. Louis held stable, at about one every seven days.

Violent crimes in St. Louis

Crimes in Black-majority areas surged above

average after stay-at-home orders were lifted.

March 23 - May 18

Stay-at-home

order in place

Black-majority

neighborhoods

10 crimes

per 100k

2018-2019

average

2020

5

White-majority

neighborhoods

Average

2020

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Dec.

Crimes in White-majority areas remained stable

compared to previous years.

Violent crimes in St. Louis

Crimes in Black-majority areas surged above average after

stay-at-home orders were lifted.

March 23 - May 18

Stay-at-home

order in place

Black-majority

neighborhoods

10 crimes

per 100k

2018-2019

average

2020

5

White-majority

neighborhoods

2020

Average

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Dec.

Crimes in White-majority areas remained stable compared to

previous years.

Violent crimes in St. Louis

March 23 - May 18

Stay-at-home

order in place

Black-majority

neighborhoods

10 crimes per

100k residents

Crimes in Black-majority areas

surged above average after

stay-at-home orders were lifted.

2018-2019

average

2020

5

White-majority

neighborhoods

2020

Average

Crimes in White-majority areas remained

stable compared to previous years.

0

Jan.

Mar.

May

Jul.

Sep.

Dec.

The trend is similar in several cities examined by The Post.

The Post’s analysis of the 27 cities showed that the rolling rate of violent crime in majority-White neighborhoods fell from 31 crimes per 100,000 residents in mid-March to 21 in early May, when stay-at-home orders were in effect. Crime in majority-Black neighborhoods increased slightly during that time, from 62 to 64 incidents.

But as stay-at-home orders were lifted, crime rates began to rise.

In the third week stay-at-home orders were in effect in Boston, 17-year-old Alissa King was found dead, lying in blood at a residential intersection in the Dorchester neighborhood, where she lived with her mother.

The Post analysis shows that crime rose in the community, which has a plurality of Black residents, as it declined citywide. King’s neighborhood saw its crime rate nearly double, based on Boston police data, between the implementation of stay-at-home orders and the time she was allegedly killed by a former friend.

Boston Police investigate the fatal shooting of Alissa King in Boston. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald)
King was shot and killed on April 15 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston where she lived. (Alana Farrell)

LEFT: Boston Police investigate the fatal shooting of Alissa King in Boston. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald) . RIGHT: King was shot and killed on April 15 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston where she lived. (Alana Farrell)

Her mother, Alana Farrell, described her daughter’s bright smile and smooth, shiny skin. She said she had dreams of going to college and playing basketball — a sport she said her daughter dominated in high school.

“When I got the news that my daughter was murdered in broad daylight, life has not been the same for me,” Farrell said. “Since the death of my daughter, the violence has increased. It not only worries me but it scares me. I worry for my daughter’s friends and their safety.”

Theories for crime divergence

As part of its analysis, The Post analyzed crime in 2018 and 2019 to see how current trends compare with recent years. The analysis found that the disparity between violent crime in White and Black neighborhoods is wider than it’s been at any time during that period.

Criminologists and police officials said pinpointing the causes of the divergence is difficult given the complexity of the forces driving crime, especially in a year of unprecedented upheaval. Still, they offered a range of theories.

Richard B. Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said the rise in crime in Black neighborhoods is concerning, but the largely unchanged numbers in White neighborhoods nationwide undercut Trump’s argument that crime is rampant and out of control in cities.

He said it’s possible that trends that emerged during the pandemic and after Floyd’s killing may have converged to leave Black neighborhoods more exposed to crime.

First, he said, minority communities may have suffered more from a decrease in proactive efforts to fight crime as police departments shifted to battling the pandemic, instituted social distancing and quarantined sick officers. Rosenfeld surmised that Floyd’s death might also have led Black communities to report fewer crimes and participate less in investigations, leaving problems to fester.

“Those are communities that have already had a fraught relationship with police, and the alienation seems to have grown even more,” Rosenfeld said.

Other experts said Black neighborhoods could be home to more essential workers who were out and about, making them more vulnerable to street crime during the pandemic. White neighborhoods could have more office workers who are working from home, leaving them safer and making their homes less enticing targets for crime.

In Chicago, police spokesman Howard Ludwig said officers were told to limit contact with the public and focus on violent offenders to slow the spread of the virus. According to the department, the three police districts with the most criminal complaints are within predominantly minority communities on the city’s south and west sides.

Image: An officer investigates the scene of a shooting in Chicago on July 5. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/AP)

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said it makes sense that public safety problems that arrived with the pandemic would fall most heavily on already struggling communities, just as the health effects of the coronavirus did.

“[When people have] lost their jobs, and when people, you know, lose hope, that’s when we start seeing the increase in assaults because people are just on pins and needles,” he said. “It’s an unprecedented era in modern history. You put all that together — that’s a lot for society to deal with. And I think when you add it all up, that’s [why] we’re seeing an increase.”

It’s been about six months since much of the nation was forced to stay home, with residents urged to distance themselves amid a pandemic linked to more than 7.5 million infections and more than 212,000 deaths in the United States. Amid ongoing conversations about reforming policing in light of Floyd’s death, experts say the pandemic shows that no single action can universally affect crime across jurisdictions.

As jurisdictions have reopened, most cities’ crime rates have rebounded at or above pre-pandemic levels, based on The Post’s analysis. Several of the nation’s largest cities have experienced increased bloodshed, although experts aren’t sure of the cause.

It’s also too early to know how the pandemic could affect crime in the long term, experts said. The pandemic is an exceptionally rare instance of entire societies being simultaneously shuttered, a scenario with little precedent for criminologists to study.

Matthew Ashby, a criminologist at University College London who has studied crime in the United States during the pandemic, said future studies using data still being collected could lead police departments and criminologists to understand how smaller-scale events — such as floods, hurricanes and protests — affect crime levels.

“It’s really hard to come up with national solutions or even statewide solutions for crime problems that are inherently very local,” he said. “Preventing crime is always about being specific about a particular type of crime and being local.”

‘Fear of living in St. Louis’

Victrail Mora was babysitting his sister in his mother’s apartment in St. Louis’s Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood when he heard a knock at the door on Aug. 12, said Deeauna Mora. The teen went outside to investigate and was shot in the back of the head.

Victrail Mora’s mother, who was out getting gas, returned to find her son.

“She said he was just saying, ‘Momma, Momma,’ ” Deeauna Mora said. “He was trying to talk, but blood kept coming out of his mouth.”

Victrail was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police have not released a motive in the shooting or announced arrests. The slaying marked a “grim milestone,” as a TV news segment put it later — St. Louis had eclipsed the number of slayings of children for all of 2019, and it was just August.

Deeauna Mora said she can’t fathom why her nephew was targeted. She said he was in high school and worked two jobs. She said he neither dealt drugs nor was in a gang, but the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood has often been the site of violence during recent months. A man was shot and killed there hours after Victrail.

Image: Victrail Mora was shot and killed in St. Louis on Aug. 12. (Family photo)

St. Louis police Capt. Renee Kriesmann said the pandemic, protests and unrest that followed Floyd’s killing fundamentally reshaped policing and crime in the city.

“We went for a two- or three-month period on what we considered no self-initiated activity, trying to keep the workforce safe and trying to keep the community safe,” Kriesmann said of the period that ended in early August. She said that may have been one factor driving the increase in homicides in the city.

Kriesmann said the drop in crime after the pandemic was noticeable, but she called violence that erupted following the Floyd protests on June 1 a “turning point.” Early the next morning, four police officers were shot and dozens of businesses were looted.

Kriesmann said it’s likely that the uptick in crime that came during the summer was partially driven by weeks of looting and unrest. She said officers were also pulled away from their regular beats to work protests and guard shops during that period. Kriesmann said she hasn’t seen any change in how willing Black communities are to report crime in the wake of Floyd’s killing.

She said the number of children killed in St. Louis could be tied to more of them being home during the pandemic, as well as the suspension of programs to help at-risk youth and traditional activities that keep kids busy, such as school and sports.

Image: Children’s cars are seen on the side of Gamble Street in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood of St. Louis in September. Victrail Mora was killed on the same block in August. (Whitney Curtis for The Washington Post)

Whatever the reason, Deeauna Mora now has a void in her life. The aunt, who has no children of her own, said she felt like she was living for Victrail and her other nephews and nieces. She helped raise Victrail, who often stayed at her house. She’ll miss him crawling into her bed at night and driving him to the movies with his girlfriend.

“They are taking kids’ lives right and left. It’s disgusting,” she said. “I’m going to be honest with you. I live in fear of living in St. Louis. I feel trapped. … They took a big chunk out of me by taking him.”

Austin R. Ramsey, Chris Casey, Verónica Del Valle, Jacob Wallace and Adrian Blanco contributed to this report.

Methodology

The Washington Post began collecting crime data from several cities in mid-March. The Post selected 27 cities to create an aggregate rate of major crimes, which includes aggravated assault, rape, robbery, homicide, burglary, auto theft and thefts from vehicles. Data for this analysis is current as of Sept. 5, 2020.

The data was collected via open web portals from each city. It was standardized using the statistical program R and UCR definitions to categorize violent and property crimes.

More than 800,000 reported crimes were collected from 2020. An additional 2.2 million crimes were collected for 2018 and 2019 to compare trends and create a yearly average. The crimes were geocoded to Census tracts and merged with data on demographics.

A rolling 21-day average was calculated by dividing the total crimes in neighborhoods with a majority Asian, Black, Latino or White population by the sum population of those Census tracts. The location of some crimes like sexual assaults or homicides were suppressed to protect a victim’s privacy or because the crime was still under investigation, bringing small limitations to the data.

John D. Harden is a metro data reporter for The Washington Post. He joined The Post after four years working for the Houston Chronicle as a data and breaking news reporter. FollowFollow
Headshot of Justin Jouvenal
Justin Jouvenal covers courts and policing in Fairfax County and across the nation. He joined The Post in 2009. FollowFollow