With 34 homicides already this year, Rochester is on pace for a record-high 70 murders in 2021–a per-capita rate that exceeds Chicago, one of America’s most violent large cities, reports Reuters. Among cities with fewer than 500,000 people, Rochester saw the third-largest jump in its per-capita rate during the 12 months ending in April, according to americanviolence.org, a crime-mapping website. Nationwide, the per-capita murder rate climbed 30 percent in 2020 among 34 major cities surveyed by Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Murders in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago accounted for 40 percent of the 1,268 additional people killed in 2020, compared to the previous year, in the cities Rosenfeld studied.
Economic shocks such as the pandemic often spark a rise in crime. And some criminologists believe the national uprising over police killings of Black people, including George Floyd, made residents of high-crime areas even less likely to assist police investigations, exacerbating a longstanding problem and emboldening violent criminals. Newly-elected Rochester mayor Malik Evans said the murder surge reflects rising problems with drug trafficking, criminal gangs and illegal firearms during the pandemic. The city’s police union, the Rochester Police Locust Club, said the department has only 12 investigators to pursue murder cases. Police data show that about two-thirds of this year’s cases remain open and unsolved.