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Pandemic-Linked Rise in Crime Hit America's Poor Neighborhoods Hardest

TUESDAY, Dec. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Poor neighborhoods of color bore the brunt of a surge in violent crime in U.S. cities early in the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

"This study adds to the mounting body of research showing that equal opportunities — including the opportunity to live, work, learn, play and worship free from violence — are not afforded to all Americans, and that the greatest burdens of violence are shouldered by our most marginalized and economically vulnerable neighborhoods," said study co-author Shani Buggs of the Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) at the University of California, Davis. "The pandemic has only worsened these outcomes."

Buggs, an assistant professor, called for significant investments in development, empowerment and healing of the communities most affected.

Previous research found violence increased in U.S. cities during the pandemic, but it did not pinpoint where violence was highest or increased the most within cities.

For this study, the investigators analyzed 2018-2020 data from 13 cities: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle.

While they saw an overall 29.3% jump in gun violence, a nearly 28% surge in homicides and a 4% rise in assault in 2020, compared to 2018-2019, those increases weren't evenly distributed within the cities.

"ZIP codes with higher concentrations of low-income Black people and people of color experienced substantially higher rates of violence from March to July 2020 [the pandemic's first months] than did ZIP codes with higher concentrations of high-income white people," said study lead author Julia Schleimer, a research data analyst at VPRP.

"We estimated that, in 2020, on average, there were approximately 14 more incidents of firearm violence in the least-privileged ZIP codes compared to the most privileged ZIP codes, and almost 150 more aggravated assaults and five more homicides," she said in a university news release.

The difference in the burden of violence in poorer versus richer neighborhoods was greater during the pandemic than in prior years, according to the study recently published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

Not all violent crime increased, however.

During the pandemic's first five months, robbery dropped 23% and rape decreased by 31% overall, something the authors said requires further research to understand.

More information

The National Crime Prevention Council has tips for protecting yourself from violent crime.

SOURCE: University of California, Davis, news release, Dec. 9, 2021

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