A national increase in gun violence in the US during the pandemic took a heavy toll on black women and girls, a new report by WSJ eviscerates.
A new report by The Wall Street Journal shed the light on a disturbing phenomenon that took place across the US during the pandemic.
The report observed that “when homicides surged across America during the pandemic, murders of Black women and girls rose more dramatically than other groups”.
Simultaneously, in roughly two dozen places, the proportion of those killings solved by police fell faster than other demographics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,077 Black women and girls were slain in 2021, a 51% rise over 2019 and the biggest increase of any racial or gender group during that time period. At the time, the overall number of killings grew by 34%.
Meanwhile, according to a Wall Street Journal assessment of 21 US cities, the number of unsolved homicides of Black women and girls increased by 89% in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2018 and 2019. According to data provided by the cities, it was a considerably greater growth than any other demographic group during this time period.
“The numbers are confounding to law enforcement, criminologists, and community groups, who said they have yet to gain a complete understanding of the disparities, “the report stressed.
They cited several factors that could have contributed to the shifts, including an overall increase in homicides of Black women and girls, staffing shortages in police departments, and growing distrust of police in some Black communities in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Most cities surveyed do not track such information
According to some law enforcement officials, one factor is a shift in the types of homicide cases in which Black women and girls were victims.
Historically, police have solved more homicides involving women than homicides involving men. Women are frequently murdered by husbands, lovers, or ex-partners, who are promptly identified. Men are more likely to be killed in gang- and drug-related killings or clashes with strangers, and these cases can be more difficult to solve, the report argued.
Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, who leads the detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department, stated that there had been too many killings and not enough detectives to keep up. The 752 homicides in Los Angeles in 2020-2021 represented a 46% increase over the previous year.
Many police officers in the United States have retired or left the force in the last two years, leaving departments understaffed. Veteran homicide detectives say it takes years to learn the knowledge of those who have left.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which publishes annual crime statistics across the country, does not comprehensively track clearance rates by race and gender. The Journal surveyed more than 30 cities across the country, including the top ten largest. Most also stated that they do not track such information. Twenty-one cities agreed to share the number of killings and cases cleared since 2018, as well as the race and gender of the victims.
“In these cities, the share of homicide cases for Black women and girls cleared by police—either by arrest, charges filed or identification of a suspect beyond the reach of authorities—fell to 59% in 2020 and 2021 from 67% in 2018 and 2019. Clearance rates for white women and girls fell from 78% to 73% over the same time period,” as per the report.
Men’s clearance rates were lower to begin with, but experienced lesser declines or none at all during that time period, remaining at 58% for white men and boys and dipping from 45% to 41% for Black men and boys, who had the lowest clearance rate of all. During that time, the total homicide clearance rate in those 21 cities declined from 51% to 49%.
Some governments and communities have begun to investigate discrepancies in homicides and clearance rates for Black women and girls. In May, the Los Angeles City Council directed the city’s civil rights department to begin an investigation into the matter.
“It’s like there has been this huge invisibility, “said Coffy Davis, who works with police and local community groups on the issue in Little Rock, Ark as quoted by WSJ.
Families set out to solve the crimes themselves
A diverse group of Black women from throughout the country have begun documenting killings and established websites dedicated to unsolved murders. Frustrated by stalling investigations, some bereaved families have set out to solve the crimes themselves, walking the streets where their mothers, daughters, or sisters died.
“LaTonia Williams, 50 years old, who ran a child-care center out of her home, was shot multiple times while sitting in her car in Chicago on the afternoon of Feb. 22, 2020. For days afterward, her sister and mother blanketed the South Shore neighborhood with posters showing her photo. They offered a $15,000 reward,” the report demonstrated.
“No one would talk with us. They wouldn’t even open the door for us. It was so heartbreaking,” said Jamila Hughes, Williams’ sister as quoted by WSJ.
According to some relatives of slain Black women and girls, another element in clearance discrepancies is that their deaths receive less attention.
Last January, an outcry from Black victims’ families erupted in Los Angeles after officials promised a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a 24-year-old white UCLA graduate student. Private donations increased the prize to $250,000. With the use of security film, a suspect was captured promptly.
Families of two deceased Black women in Los Angeles have demanded restitution. Tioni Theus, 16, was discovered dead on the side of a road in January, with a gunshot wound in her neck. Mikeona Johnson, a 23-year-old woman, was discovered dead in her automobile in September 2020, as per the report.
A tragic story
Britney Hardwick, a 22-year-old nail stylist, and mother of a three-year-old toddler called Justice, was among the unsolved killings of 2020. She was discovered fatally shot in the neck in her black Ford Focus parked in her boyfriend’s parents’ driveway early on December 12, 2020.
Hardwick’s mother, Sandra Dawkins, was confident that Cleveland’s homicide detectives would solve the case fast. A friend reported her daughter was with acquaintances before driving to pick up her boyfriend from a party. Hardwick’s boyfriend and others were interviewed by detectives, but no arrests were made.
Dawkins, 62, canvassed the Cleveland neighborhood where her daughter was slain, speaking with residents and business owners. She put up posters with a picture of her daughter and the words “WHO KILLED ME?!?” as well as a phone number for tips.
“Wondering if she missed anything, Ms. Dawkins recently went to the police impound lot. Among the rows of vehicles with shattered windows and rusting bullet holes, she found her daughter’s car,” the report added.
She sat inside, opening the passenger door and caressing the gray fabric on the driver’s seat, which was still stained with her daughter’s blood.
“How can you just go on in life knowing someone killed your child, and you don’t know who did it?” Ms. Dawkins said. “I got to know.”