State: Spike in violent crime ‘indirect impact’ of pandemic

Coronavirus

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a presentation Wednesday that included the “indirect impacts” of COVID-19 — one of them: trends in crime rate.

The data showed that the overall crime rate, or total number of offenses, has decreased 16% this year compared to last.

However, the report shows violent crime has increased from 2019 to 2020. The presentation reports a 20% increase in murders. The spike is especially seen in numbers reported during the summer months.

Though MDHHS has categorized this data as an “indirect impact” of COVID-19, a criminal justice expert said the pandemic may be just one of several factors at play.

“To couple the pandemic with the social unrest that has taken place on top of a hotly-debated presidential election year and everything,” MSU criminal justice professor Chris Melde said. “I think that’s a natural place to think that may have something to do in the rise of violence.”

Nationwide, similar trends are being reported. Several cities, including Grand Rapids, have experienced a record number of homicides this year. A fatal shooting Sunday night marking the city’s 35th murder of the year.

Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Statewide, other violent crimes are also on the rise.

MDHHS’ data shows that both aggravated assaults and domestic violence incidents are up 9% this year from last year.

“One of the things that I want people to be mindful of is that’s an underreported number,” Charisse Mitchell, CEO of YWCA West Central Michigan said. “Domestic violence has always been an underreported crime, so what we are seeing now, even with an increase, still represents just the tip of the iceberg of people who are in need of support.”

Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

With the data, Mitchell said it’s important to note that COVID-19 doesn’t cause domestic violence — assailants do.

“Public health crises like COVID don’t cause domestic violence … it’s the conditions that may be exasperated,” Mitchell said. “Risk factors may be exasperated (like) intense family stressors, loss of income, loss of job, close proximity … may exacerbate risk factors that cause behaviors that were already there.”

MDHHS’s crime data used information from the Michigan State Police.

News 8 reached out to MSP to learn more about these trends, but a spokesperson declined to comment.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, resources offered by the YWCA can be found on its website.

You can also call the YWCA’s 24-hour confidential helpline 616.454.9922.

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