By LUKE BARR, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- The Police Executive Research Forum surveyed four cities across the country and found that crime rates in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York and Las Vegas have spiked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the reopening of the country -- a fact that law enforcement leaders feared.
"Jurisdictions released many offenders in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in jails. And courts in many places have been closed. That has led to a feeling among offenders that they can commit crimes with impunity. In addition, police in some cities are less proactive in their enforcement, in order to avoid interactions with the public that could spread the virus," the report said.
The group explained that officers who would be assigned to investigating and tracking violent crimes have instead been assigned to monitor the protests.
In New York, NYPD Chief of Department Terrance Monahan told PERF that "in the last week, we've had 53 shooting incidents and 72 people shot. We have to go back to the week of July 4th in 2012 for a week like that."
Monahan said that 20% of those released from Rikers Island due to COVID-19 have been rearrested. The NYPD can't make any connections between the releases and the rise in violent crime, "but we're seeing a large uptick of parolees involved on either end of the gun, as either the shooter or the victim," he added.
"There's a feeling that you're not going to go to jail," Monahan said to PERF.
In Indianapolis, Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said that Indy is in the midst of a six-year homicide increase.
"At the height of our COVID response, the crime numbers kind of leveled out, but in May, it blew up. As far as I can tell, there's only one other time that we've had 25 homicides in one month: in November 2017. Going back to the inception of our combined police department in 2007, we haven't seen any numbers like that. This month we're right back where we were last year," he said.
He said that nonfatal shootings in the city have steadily been rising.
"We've had 217 incidents so far this year, compared to 200 last year, and in 2016 we were in the 180s, so gun crime has been continuously rising in our city," he explained, adding that the increase has "a lot" to do with drug trafficking.
In Milwaukee, the same can be said.
"Our homicides are way up. We haven't seen these numbers since 1991. We have 86 homicides this year, compared to 37 to this point last year -- so we have a 132% increase. We've had an increase since the fall, but it has increased immensely over the last couple of months," Milwaukee Inspector Leslie Thiele told PERF. "We had a couple mass shootings, but a lot of shootings tend to be related to drugs or silly disputes. We've had a big increase in domestic violence shootings."
Terrence Gordon, another Milwaukee inspector, told PERF that there's been a big spike in "intimate partner violence."
Las Vegas Metropolitan Captain James LaRochelle told PERF that the department saw an increase in the Nevada city starting late last month.
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US cities seeing increase in violent crime, police group says
By LUKE BARR, ABC News