We Seem To Be Having Happy Holidays
The city has seen a sharp decline in violence over the last few weeks. Something is happening.
Saturday morning, police found a man shot dead on the sidewalk near the tangle of overpasses for I-20 and the connector on Central Avenue. Neither the police nor the coroner’s office have released his name yet. I suspect (given the location) that he may have been homeless and without ID, making an identification difficult.
I dwell on the loss of this unnamed man today because he is the only one Atlanta lost to violence this week, one of two in the last two weeks, and perhaps the harbinger of better days to come.
I’ve been saying since the beginning of 2021 that the city was on pace for 170 to 180 murders this year. That pace held through September — the decline mid year in the chart below reflect five very violent weeks rolling off the 52-week count.
But, here we are at the end of the year, ten or twenty murders short of where I expected things to stand.
Atlanta endured a surprising end-of-year explosion of violence at a time when things usually slow down. More than 200 people were shot in the last three months of 2020.
The comparable figures for 2021 look encouraging. In the ten weeks ending on December 4, Atlanta has sustained 28 murders. Over the same ten weeks last year, we lost 44 lives. That’s a decrease of 36 percent. About 28 percent fewer people got shot over the last ten weeks. Aggravated assaults of all kinds are down about 14 percent.
I’m not trying to cherry-pick numbers here: Atlanta is far from out of the woods. All of the figures for this year remain higher than the pre-pandemic baseline. But I think we hit an inflection point at the beginning of October, just like the inflection point mid-May of 2020 that set off a long increase in violence that peaked around Christmas last year.
The rolling average for aggravated assaults — a figure that has much less variation also starts to drop off sharply around week 39.
I may be making an early call on this. I choose to be optimistic. This is why.
Here’s a supposition: the employment shock at the start of the pandemic created serious disruptions amid low-income households that led to instability … and violence. Employment problems for people who are struggling financially are starting to resolve themselves as employers despair for labor.
There are still a lot of people with serious financial problems. But employment shock leading to a household crisis has become rarer, and that means fewer disputes over money that lead to violence.
If this is the case, the key to creating a long, slow march back to 2019 numbers may be as simple as aggressively finding people who are unemployed and desperate and getting them jobs.