Homicides are spiking in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Monday afternoon brought Minneapolis’ 56th homicide of 2020 when a man was fatally shot in the city’s Jordan neighborhood. The Star Tribune reports that:

…patrol officers were called just before 4:30 p.m. to the 2900 block of N. Oliver Avenue, where they found a man suffering from a gunshot wound, according to police spokesman John Elder. He was taken to North Memorial Health Hospital, where he died a short time later. The victim, whose identity wasn’t immediately released, was thought to be in his 30s.

The killing was the city’s 56th homicide of 2020, according to Minneapolis police crime statistics — eight more than all of last year, and just one off of the 20-year high of 57, recorded in 2006.

Figure 1: Homicides in Minneapolis

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, City of Minneapolis, and Star Tribune

“Minneapolis isn’t alone,” the Star Tribune reports, “with other large cities experiencing staggering levels of bloodshed.” These include Denver, Atlanta, Houston, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles,and Kansas City.

St. Paul is another. In the early hours of this morning, the state’s capital recorded its 23rd homicide of 2020. The Pioneer Press reports:

A woman was fatally shot Thursday in St. Paul, the second homicide in two days in the city.

The killing came after two other people were wounded in unrelated shootings earlier that day in St. Paul, one critically.

The homicide happened in the Payne-Phalen area. Police responded to a report of a shooting shortly after 3:30 a.m. and a bystander directed officers to the woman, who was in the street in the area of Arcade Street and Cook Avenue, said Steve Linders, a St. Paul police spokesman.

She had multiple gunshot wounds, according to an initial emergency radio dispatch. Police started CPR and paramedics arrived, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Unlike Minneapolis, St. Paul’s total has not surpassed last year’s yet, but it has already exceeded the total for 21 of the previous 23 years.

Figure 2: Homicides in St. Paul

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, City of Saint Paul, and Pioneer Press 

The Star Tribune offers some explanations for this surge in violence:

Experts attributed the continuing rise in violence to a variety of factors ranging from warming temperatures and unrest over police brutality to the economic and psychological strain of the COVID-19 pandemic — while pointing out that overall crime remains at generational lows across the country.

Warming temperatures might explain why crime is higher in, say, August than it is in February, but temperatures rise, more or less, every year, so it doesn’t explain why crime should be higher in 2020 than it was in 2019. Most of the homicide victims in Minneapolis have been black, a fact which is hard to square with this being a reaction to supposed “police brutality”. Of the proposed explanations, then, only “the economic and psychological strain of the COVID-19 pandemic” holds any validity.

I have recited these grim facts before. I was prompted to do so again after seeing some argument online that doing so is “fear mongering”.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.