COVID Did Not Cause the Spike in Richmond Murders

by Hans Bader

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) suggested a spike in murders in Richmond is due to the coronavirus. But it isn’t.

VCU Medical trauma surgeon Michael Aboutanos said VCU is experiencing a 121% increase in gunshot-wound victims from across the Richmond metropolitan area. In response, Senator Warner cited the effects of COVID-19, the “frustration of people not being able to get back into the community, the frustration with schools being shut down. But 120 percent increase, month over month over last year? If that doesn’t scream epidemic, I don’t know what does.”

But the coronavirus epidemic affected the whole world and shut down schools and community institutions in many countries. Yet the United States was almost alone in having a huge increase in homicides. Most of the world saw reductions in homicide rates in 2020.
Murder rates actually fell in most countries that lost many people to the coronavirus. Peru had the world’s highest coronavirus death rate per million inhabitants. Yet Peru’s homicide rate fell by more than 2% in 2020.

Three times as high a percentage of Peruvians died of the virus compared to Americans. Many Peruvians lost their jobs, many schools and social services shut down, and Peru’s economy shrank by 12%, unlike America’s economy, which shrank by only 3.5%. Yet Peru’s murder rate fell.

Mexico’s homicide rate fell in 2020, even though Mexico and the United States lost similar fractions of their citizens to the coronavirus, and even though Mexico’s economy crashed much worse than the United States’s during the pandemic. Murder rates also fell in other countries hit hard by the epidemic, like France and Italy.

COVID-19 caused widespread hunger in Latin 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 more in 2020 due to the coronavirus: Venezuela’s economy shrank 10%, El Salvador’s 9%, and Honduras’s 6.6%. By contrast, the U.S. economy shrank only 3.5%.

The Daily Wire says that “it wasn’t the pandemic that increased violent crime in America.” Instead, it pointed to other causes:

[T]he rise in violence coincided with anti-police rhetoric and laws as well as lawlessness in major cities across the U.S. following the police-involved death of George Floyd. The treatment of police by Democrats and their media supporters led to massive resignations and retirements in the police force.

The New York Times addressed the issue after the Asheville Police Department in North Carolina announced it had lost 84 officers and would no longer be able to respond to numerous crimes, including theft from a vehicle if there is no suspect information and simple assaults reported after they occurred.

Another potential factor in rising violence is falling incarceration rates, which result in violent offenders being released from jail or not jailed in the first place. The number of people in America’s prisons and jails dropped by 14% from 2019 to mid-2020.

The criminal justice system has become softer on offenders. Virginia’s legislature recently abolished the death penalty. Moreover, people who committed murder in Virginia at age 16 or 17 are now eligible for parole after a mere 20 years, no matter how many murders they committed, under a law passed in February 2020. Murder rates peak in the late teens and early 20s. About four in ten killers commit their crime before age 25. About a tenth of all murders have historically been committed by juveniles, and once released, juvenile murderers often commit more violent crimes, including more murders.

Due to the steady softening of the criminal justice system, criminals may not expect to serve all of their sentences. Virginia may bring back parole for violent offenders, including murderers, in 2022. State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) expects that his bill to bring back parole will pass the state senate in 2022, although he is less certain about it passing the House of Delegates if Republicans pick up seats in the 2021 election. Back when Virginia had parole, there were periods where criminals served only about 30% of their sentences before being released. Under Morrissey’s legislation, most murderers would be eligible for parole within no more than 15 years. If murderers serve 15 years or less, rather than a life sentence, that is much less of a deterrent to commit murder. Short sentences are less effective at deterring crime than longer sentences.

Neighboring jurisdictions are also releasing criminals sooner. Last year, Washington, DC’s city government made murderers eligible to seek release after 15 years, if they committed their crime before age 25.

Police manpower in America was shrinking even before the George Floyd incident, which accelerated the trend. In the last few years, there has been “a notable decline in the number of police on the beat,” said Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute:

In a September 2019 report, the Police Executive Research Forum outlined what it declared a “workforce crisis.” A robust body of research has thoroughly illustrated that more police means less crime — a finding at odds with ever-more-popular calls to “defund the police.” It stands to reason that a significant decline in the sizes of the nation’s police forces could have helped set the stage for the violent crime uptick. 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.

Hans Bader is an attorney living in Northern Virginia. This column has been republished with permission from Liberty Unyielding.

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36 responses to “COVID Did Not Cause the Spike in Richmond Murders”

  1. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Really surprised Senator Mark Not John failed to go with the standard script and blame Trump! Was just working a shift as a poll observer and searched and searched for his name on the ballot, I’m hearing it so much these days I assumed he was running again.

    It is a risk-benefit calculation which has apparently changed, with the perps perceiving less risk of capture and long incarceration.

    1. Really surprised Senator Mark Not John failed to go with the standard script and blame Trump!

      Maybe he was practicing diversity.

  2. Troublemaker Avatar

    If Covid didn’t cause the spike, it must be because of climate change 🙂

    1. That’s understood and implied in most all arguments…just ask Greta.

    1. Yes, let’s put context upon it. If you eliminate the 98% land mass of non Dem hellhole cities, the US would be #1. AFDC and absence of fatherly influence and all the other bad behaviors of those hellholes makes them extremely dangerous. Meanwhile, for the people who live there and want a good education and want police to protect them from the criminal element, the loving Dem answer is no school choice, defund the police and empty mouthing of a Marxist phrase…BLM.
      And Haner is right, Trump caused it. His toxic Twitter caused Fauci to fund gain of function research (and lie about it) and China released it because of Trump, so we deserve it, and shut up prole!

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        One should frequent ‘street view’ for Mexico and other 3rd world countries. Those who can afford it have walls and gates , apparently not enough police?

        But that sounds very “UN-Marxist” and very PRO- capitalist.


        1. Huh? You have a point? It sounds very corrupt and those who can have their own protection forces…and that is assuming they are good. Likely they are quite bad, part of the cartels, and have their own forces to protect their weapons and their riches. Who knows? What I do know is I don’t want to become Venezuela or Cuba and everything you and Troll seem to support heads us that way.

      2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        If you eliminate urban areas from US data, you must eliminate urban areas from all other countries’ data. Our standing would not change one iota.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          wait a minute. You’re suggesting that an objective perspective be used on BR? The heck you say!

          1. Look in the mirror Larry…

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            You’d have balance and objective perspective in BR without commenters like me? ha hah bhahahahah

            echo chamber on steroids, maybe…

          3. No… I think there is plenty of differing view already. I just think you tend to repeat the same thing, all the time, in accord with the Dem line of the day. I am pretty sure I am to the right of all the so called (as you think it) conservative commenters here. So it’s not actually an echo chamber. You might want to try it – not just repeat the Dem talking points. I heard civility happened on the View. Condi Rice blew up CRT and Whoopi said we needed to acknowledge wrongdoing. Wow. Crazy. I think Dick Hall Sizemore makes substantive points beyond mere phrase like BLM.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            Dem “talking points”? Methinks you and Haner are “projecting” a bit.

            Ya’ll spend way too much time reacting to lefty loons and not recognizing there is a middle group that is much more moderate and reasonable but alas not far right….

            “Echo chamber” does not mean a lack of “diversity” of far-right… we KNOW that Conservatives these days are all over the map on their politics – to the point where they will readily eat their own… CINOS and RINOs, et al…

            We got a small whiff of that with the left wing loons in Congress over the two stimulus bills before they were put back in their boxes…

            ON the right – it’s katy bar the door 24/7!

          5. OK Larry. I remember a few days back when all the usual suspects were demanding proof about Loudoun. I remember you fear mongering about Covid in India. Haven’t heard from you about the success of ivermectin in Uttar Pradesh… I don’t remember you or Dr. St. Fau(x)ci saying that we would need 2…oops…3! Covid shots which likely still won’t be effective and is truly unethical for people who have survived the KungFlu…or protesting when the CDC changes the definition of “vaccination” or objecting to your fellow 2SLBGTQIA activists insisting that a man transitioned to a “woman” needs menstrual supplies and can become pregnant…
            Yeah, you represent the party of science and deal with objective reality…

        2. Proof? Other than your pure conjecture?
          I think Mexico is dispersed all over because of the drug cartels (you know, the ones engaging in child trafficking at our wide open border as SlowJoe faithfully executes US law). Don’t know about Turkey and Estonia, but I sincerely doubt they have the same pathologies that Dem policy has produced in the hellholes.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Got similar issues in El Salvador, Colombia, and other 3rd world countries, no?

            In those countries, the well-off provide their own security – no police-for-all socialism…. if you want security, become successful… otherwise you deserve your fate.


          2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            Proof? That in order to fairly compare crime rates you can not simply remove sets of data from one country and not from the others? You need proof of this?!

            Btw, from a quick wiki read: “Mexico has experienced increasingly high crime rates, especially in major urban centers.”

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            don’t be trying to bring facts into this discussion…. it’s a real buzzkiller…

          4. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            Don’t talk about “facts” when you post an undated chart? Recent? Ten years old? If not up to date, not relevant….

          5. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            Wow, you are right, Haner. Our rate is no longer 3.82 per 100,000… it is now 6.5… good catch!!

          6. And caused by COVID and Trump!

          7. LarrytheG Avatar

            fair point. The data is fairly current. The murder rates in 3rd world countries has not improved…

            Is that your complaint? If I find a chart that has the date but show similar, will that satisfy ?


          8. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            For your own sake you add more credibility with more detail. That’s when I enjoy the comment debates, when good data gets added in.

          9. LarrytheG Avatar

            the data on homicides is not reported on a fixed schedule by countries… it varies..that’s why the charts don’t have a top date.


          10. Danville undertook a novel approach which resulted in ZERO murders this summer –the first time since 2015. It arrested criminals and prosecuted them.


            …..jus sayin…….

          11. LarrytheG Avatar

            arresting murders after the fact stops murders?

            are we assuming there are no “new” murderers once they round up all the existing ones?

            😉 a zero-sum game?

          12. Murderers undertake other crimes — check out arrest warrants…..There are ALWAYS other charges levied against murderers. Arrest them for other crimes, they can’t kill. Criminals can’t commit crimes when in jail…..appears to work. Facts are pesky little creatures.

          13. LarrytheG Avatar

            so all others that are arrested are potential murderers, so keep them all locked up?

          14. NOT ALL. But apparently some. Criminals were arrested for multiple crimes — and no murders happened. Show me five cases where the accused was charged ONLY with murder and no other crimes — never happens. Murderers committed other crimes before and during the heinous act. Please list which criminals you think should not be prosecuted and you’re willing to have live on your block?

          15. LarrytheG Avatar

            so how do you know what criminals will become murderers and imprison them before?

            Oh I think anyone who breaks the law should be prosecuted but the vast majority of them are NOT sentenced to “life” but rather released and SOME of those who are released might well become murderers but how do you know which ones ahead of time?

          16. Why do we continually monitor sex offenders AFTER they have served their sentence? Maybe apply that to other crimes.

            Those in jail can’t harm innocent citizens. PERIOD

            FACT: murders went up around the US and continue this year, according to the FBI
            FACT: Danville undertook a ‘broken windows’ street sweep approach of criminals.
            FACT: No murders.
            What’s your criticism with that?

          17. LarrytheG Avatar

            Why? Because we KNOW that certain kinds of offenders are more dangerous than others – but we don’t know that UNTIL they offend at those more dangerous levels.

            Not everyone who offends is destined to become a murderer or rapist…

            And you cannot incarcerate every offender for life because some of them MAY become a murderer later.

            “Broken Windows” does not prevent murders because you cannot predict ahead of time who will murder and even if you arrest everybody and their dog – you do release them – you can’t hold them for life on lesser charges.

            This is a really DUMB concept IMHO – a grossly simplistic concept that has no relation to reality.

          18. i consider no Murders a reality….so do those who were not killed.
            But, hey, if you like being pro-crime. go ahead.

          19. LarrytheG Avatar

            No such thing as no murders and no such thing as arresting all who commit crimes and incarcerating them for life no matter their crime to prevent future murders.

            It’s a dumb concept but yes some folks support it.

            We have more people in prison than any other industrialized country on the planet yet our murder rate is the worst among all the industrialized countries who do not imprison like we do.

            We got way more wrong than just “murder”..

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