To follow up on yesterday’s Daily Critical Issues Report about recent spikes in violent crime, PERF interviewed police executives from five departments in the Major Cities Chiefs Association that have experienced increases in homicides and aggravated assaults: Houston, Louisville, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Omaha. They shared information about the types of crimes and offenders that are driving those statistics, as well as other circumstances that may be impacting these changes.

Key Takeaways

  • Cities across the United States are seeing significant increases in homicides and shootings that they have not experienced since the 1990s.
  • The causes of homicides and shootings are multifaceted, but one common denominator is the increased carrying of guns. Another factor was that large, frequent protests and demonstrations required departments to move officers from specialized units to patrol, pulling resources from high-crime areas. And proactive policing has declined due to the demonstrations as well as the need to minimize officers’ possible exposure to COVID.
  • Drug and gang activities have become more prevalent as police proactive operations have decreased.
  • Robberies and rapes have decreased in most cities, with exceptions, such as increases in carjackings in Minneapolis.
  • Juveniles seem to be increasingly involved in shootings and other violence, in part because they are not in school, and school resource officers have been reassigned.


Houston Assistant Chief Heather Morris

As of September 30, the Houston Police Department recorded a 35% increase in homicides, a 32% increase in aggravated assaults, a 10% decrease in rapes, and a 4% decrease in robberies year to date compared to 2019. 

Our most recent number is now up to a 44% increase in homicides this year compared to last year.

A big thing we’re seeing right now is the number of people on bond or parole committing homicide. We had 28 suspects last year who were on bond or parole when they committed a murder, and this year we’ve had 44. The person who killed one of our officers a week ago was out on $100 bond for unlawfully possessing a weapon. We always have people out on bond or parole who commit crimes, but the number is higher this year. Bond reform in some cases is needed, but you have people who allegedly committed violent crimes getting out on bond when they haven’t in the past.

Our homicides involving domestic violence are not up over last year, but our aggravated assaults involving domestic violence are.

We’ve noticed an increase in the number of documented gang members who have been murder victims. We had about 25 last year and are at 57 this year.

Our Major Assaults & Family Violence Division has had an almost 19% increase over last year in the number of weapons charges they’ve filed, such as felon in possession or unlawful carrying. That doesn’t include the numbers in patrol or any other divisions.

We haven’t seen a big increase or decrease in family violence sexual assault.

With fewer people out and about, there are fewer opportunities to commit robberies.


Louisville Metro Assistant Chief Andy McClinton

As of September 30, the Louisville Metro Police Department recorded a 79% increase in homicides, a 36% increase in aggravated assaults, a 32% decrease in rapes, and a 20% increase in robberies year to date compared to 2019. 

As of Monday, we have 142 homicides this year compared to 80 at this point last year, which is a 78% increase. Our biggest issue right now is our aggravated assaults. Our shootings are up almost 100%. We are currently at 529 compared to 271 in 2019.

Our homicide suspects have kind of remained the same. Most of ours are group/gang related. We’ve dealt with that last year and this year. A lot of these killings are fueled by social media. Our biggest problem is that we have kids and young adults who have social media disputes, gang disputes, or group disputes, and they drive around shooting each other.

We’re seeing a big increase in juvenile shooting victims and suspects. We have 69 juvenile nonfatal shooting victims this year. In 2019 we were at 45 and in 2018 we were at 38. We have 14 juvenile homicide victims this year and had 10 in both 2019 and 2018. 

COVID has played a part in these changes, but the protests have played a larger part. COVID limited our contact, and that plays a role. But in order to have the manpower to deal with the nightly protests in our downtown area, we had to pull officers from several different locations. Most of them were detectives who are usually tasked with investigating violent crime and arresting folks for it. Those resources were pulled to deal with the protests, and that led to increases like we have never seen before.

We have noticed a drastic increase in high-powered rifles and the number of rounds we’re recovering. In the past we’ve dealt with them on a smaller scale, but in the last year or year and a half we’ve had shooting scenes with 60-90 or even over 100 rounds recovered. At this point we don’t know why, but I would guess it’s due to increased availability.

Our self-initiated activity, traffic stops, and field interrogations have plummeted. I think that’s another reason we’re seeing the high number of rounds fired. If our self-initiated activity is low and people know that there’s a fairly good chance they’re not going to get stopped, they ride around in vehicles armed. They are very aware of what is going on in our city with both the pandemic and the protests. Knowing that we are tied up and busy and they probably won’t be stopped, there are many more guns being carried and people riding around with rifles in their cars.

In the past, if you didn’t have your gun with you and you saw someone you had a disagreement with, you’d have to go get that gun and then go back and look for them. Now we’re seeing that these guns are on them, and when they see someone they don’t have to wait. They pull the gun out and start shooting.


Minneapolis Commander Charlie Adams

As of September 30, the Minneapolis Police Department recorded an 85% increase in homicides, a 12% increase in aggravated assaults, a 23% decrease in rapes, and a 37% increase in robberies year to date compared to 2019. 

Prior to George Floyd’s murder, we were at 13 homicides. After that, it kind of went through the roof. We have different cliques shooting at each other, and there’s no particular reason why they’re doing it. Cliques are taking over the corners with open drug markets.

We’re down 200 officers. After the riot situation when the Third Precinct was burned down, we had a bunch of officers go out with PTSD or just retire. Now we have to supplement the street patrols with some of our specialized units. We had a Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, which went out and got our bad guys so that investigators could work their cases. We had to put them back into the Patrol Division.

We have younger cliques from the high schools who have been involved in the last couple murders, and we’re trying to get that under control. With school closed, it’s tough to try to track them down. We don’t have school resource officers anymore, so we don’t have that intel to get to some of these juvenile bad actors.

Our aggravated assaults are up. And most of our shooting victims don’t want to cooperate with us during the investigation.

Robberies are way up. We have a whole lot of carjackings going on, including in the areas that typically don’t have a lot of crime, like Southwest Minneapolis. 80% of our carjackings and robberies are being done by juveniles. We’re catching them and processing them through our Juvenile Division. But when we take them over to the county to have them detained, the county won’t hold them because of COVID.

One thing driving it is that our city councilmembers made the pledge to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. We know folks read social media and the newspapers and think we can’t do our jobs. When they don’t see officers out on patrol, it gives them opportunities. Our council brought in civilian violence interrupters to go into those areas and calm down the violence. But they were getting shot at and had to be pulled off the street. The mayor supports us, but we have council members who don’t support law enforcement.

Because of COVID, we had to give back $8.5 million from our budget. Then the council purposely took another $2 million from us, which ended our Community Engagement Divisions. We had to put all those officers back on the street. If they cut our budget again, all our investigators are going to have to become generalists and do everything from property crimes to juvenile crimes.

Many homicides are gang- or drug-related. We didn’t have such a big drug problem the last couple years because we were on top of it, but once we stopped some of those active patrols, they started taking back territory. That’s where we’re now getting the shootings and the homicides, because it’s a territorial thing.


LAPD Captain Paul Vernon

As of September 30, the LAPD recorded a 20% increase in homicides, a 4% increase in aggravated assaults, a 12% decrease in rapes, and a 16% decrease in robberies year to date compared to 2019. 

Gang homicides are up 22%, but the ratio of gang homicides to total homicides is about the same. About 53% of our homicides are gang-related.

Grand theft auto is our only property crime that spiked, beginning in mid-April. It was directly related to the judicial system suspending bail in California due to COVID. People were being released immediately. One guy was arrested three times in one day for stealing three different cars.

Our Part 1 crime is down about 9%. Our homicides are up about 24%. Our aggravated assaults are up 6%. Our grand theft autos are up 35%. All the other crime, like car burglaries, thefts, and robberies, make up that overall reduction in Part 1 crime.

Arrests are down 32% since May, which is about 500 fewer arrests per week. Almost all categories of arrests are down by double-digits, but arrests for weapons violations are only down about 9%. That tells me that there are a lot of guns out there.

I’ve identified a new MO on gang-related assaults and homicides. They’re walk-up shootings, not drive-by shootings. Those are becoming the norm.

Our shots-fired incidents and number of victims shot are both up about 30%. About 70% of the increase in victims shot is due to multi-victim shootings. I think that is happening because of these walk-up shootings, which puts the shooter in closer proximity to the target and potential witnesses or people who may return fire.

Before COVID started, we saw our shootings spiking up and our homicides were up 56%. When COVID kicked in, all crime went down, including shootings and homicides, for a time. The only thing that spiked then was the grand theft autos in mid-April.

When the protests hit at the end of May, that’s when the violent crime went out of control. I see three reasons for that. Police were distracted by all the protests. There was also the political rhetoric about the police that emboldened the criminals. And the defunding of the police takes resources away, particularly from the specialized units that go after the violent criminals.

The number of homicide suspects who are homeless is about even with last year. The number of homicide victims who are homeless is up 41%, and that group makes up about 1 in 5 of our victims.


Omaha Captain Steve Cerveny

As of September 30, the Omaha Police Department recorded a 150% increase in homicides, an 11% increase in aggravated assaults, an 11% decrease in rapes, and a 5% decrease in robberies year to date compared to 2019. 

Year to date, we’re at 35 homicides, with is roughly a 153% increase. We’re coming off a couple low years for violent crime in 2019 and 2018, so 35 is a pretty big jump. Gang-related homicides are actually down. So far, we can attribute 11 of those 35 to gang-related homicides, which is less than a third. Normally half or well over half of our homicides are gang-related.

Domestic violence-related homicides have not changed much. Only two of our homicides this year can be attributed to domestic violence, which is about the same as usual.

We’ve had six drug-related homicides, which is up quite a bit from the past five years.

Firearms-related homicides have really risen. 26 of our 35 homicides involve firearms, which is a significant jump. Usually we have around 16 to 23 firearms-related homicides. That’s in line with our nonfatal shootings, which are 57% higher than this time last year.

Our aggravated assaults aren’t actually up that much, at about 11%, so it appears most of our aggravated assault increase is driven by nonfatal shooting incidents.

Our gun arrests are up about 16% from this time last year.

Our homicides are more varied this year. We’ve had many different motives for homicides. We’ve seen disturbances that have erupted into homicides. A couple homicides were mental health-related. We’ve had a home invasion that resulted in a homicide. We had a convicted child molester who was shot by someone who found him on the sex offender registry. We had one shooting homicide that occurred during the protests, when a business owner shot a protester.

I think a lot of the increases in homicides and nonfatal shootings can be attributed to the COVID environment and our protests. We’ve seen individuals emboldened.

And we’ve certainly been impacted by staffing. We’ve had a lot of officers out on COVID leave. And we’ve had a significant number of early retirements.

Our patrols, officer-initiated activity, and traffic stops are way down. That has a tremendous impact as well. We have an active gang unit that does a fantastic job, and they are out there making stops, contacts, and seizing a lot of firearms. But we’re having a lot less of our uniformed patrol willing to make stops, for a variety of reasons. The lack of traffic stops has impacted our numbers and caused some of those increases.

With COVID, a lot of our community partners and social services are not operating. We have some really valuable community partners and encourage our officers to be really active in the community. Many programs have been shut down, leaving individuals, particularly younger ones, to their own devices. I think that’s hurt us quite a bit


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.