The coronavirus landed in Milwaukee’s black communities like a spark on kindling. By the end of April, a month and a half after the virus arrived, more than 2,000 residents were infected. Black people, who account for just over a third of the population, made up two-thirds of the city’s coronavirus deaths.
As the public health crisis rages, feeding on decades of compounded inequality and segregation, it’s moving alongside another fire. Milwaukee saw 48 homicides between the start of the year and April 29—double the number during the same period in 2019. The night of Sunday, April 5, there were four separate shootings.
Across America, most forms of crime have plummeted over the past month and a half. Traffic stops, burglaries, and drug offenses are down.But data collected by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shootings in real time, shows a 6 percent increase in fatal shootings nationwide compared with the same period in each of the past three years. The first two weeks of April have been the deadliest.
The violence hasn’t been evenly distributed, according to a Trace analysis of crime data from nine major U.S. cities. After lockdowns began in Los Angeles and Baltimore, both gun violence and other violent crime fell below the levels typically seen in spring months. But in other cities, shootings have shown no sign of slowing. Philadelphia and Nashville, Tennessee, were experiencing surges when the stay-at-home orders were imposed, and the rates of gun violence have remained high. Chicago; New Orleans; D.C.; Tucson, Arizona; and Dallas have all recorded weekly spikes in gun violence, suggesting that the pace of bloodshed may not let up even as the pandemic subdues other types of violent crime.