According to reports from major cities across the U.S., murder rates rose from coast to coast in 2021.
Experts say the spike in homicides began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disturbing trend continues to grow driven by restrictions and a host of other factors.
"Pent up stress, anxiety, a lot of anger. People started losing their jobs. People are drinking more," Criminologist Dr. Alex Piquero, a member of the Violent Crime Working Group with the Council on Criminal Justice told CBN News.
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Piquero's analysis blames the current mix on the ever-present pandemic, social unrest, and division combined with the usual gang and drug problems.
"All of these things put together have occurred in every city in the United States," said Piquero.
In 2021, Chicago, a city long plagued by deadly gun violence, saw its deadliest year in 25 years with 797 murders.
"There's a real spiritual battle going on in the city of Chicago for the lives of people," said Pastor Corey Brooks of Project Hood. "There seems to be a spirit of murder throughout the city."
Los Angeles counted nearly 400 deaths in 2021 and 134 in Oakland. Both California municipalities' murder rates reached 15-year highs.
And Austin, Texas, recorded an unprecedented number of murders last year.
In a statement to CBN News, Austin police said, "The year 2021 was the highest year on record for homicides in the city of Austin with a total of 89 lives lost. Additional detectives have been assigned to the APD homicide unit."
It is an issue that hits close to home for Sylvia Bennett-Stone. Her daughter, Krystal Joy, and her daughter's best friend died as random, innocent victims from a single bullet after gunfire erupted outside a Birmingham convenience store in 2004.
"The bullet went through my daughter's body and stopped in the heart of her girlfriend sitting next to her in the car and both girls died," Bennett-Stone said in an interview with CBN News.
In the wake of the Defund the Police movement, vulnerable families in communities across the country are experiencing the loss of family members and community safety.
As the director of Voices of Black Mothers United, an anti-violence initiative of the non-profit Woodson Center in Washington, D.C., Bennett-Stone now helps others who have lost children to violence.
She's on a mission to make communities safer by supporting intervention and sensible police reform and pushes back against calls to defund the police.
"We need them to help us to keep us safe," said Bennett-Stone. "That's what they're sworn to do. So, we want accountability to make sure you do what you're sworn to do."
Clarence Page, a journalist and syndicated columnist at The Chicago Tribune, said that defunding police is nonsense because communities need the police.
"What's really important I have found is police-community cooperation," Page told CBN News. "So, the police work with the neighbors, really get to know the neighborhood and the neighbors get to know the police."
Conservatives blame Democratic leadership in big cities and movements like Defund the Police for the rising crime, an issue that is likely to be front and center in the 2022 midterm congressional elections.
Meanwhile, Piquero said while all may not agree on how to solve the problem, there is one thing that everyone can agree on.
"We don't need three-year-old kids getting shot and killed in any community under any circumstance," he said.
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