5 Nov

It’s been a tough year all around, what with the pandemic, contentious election, racial injustices, riots. As if it couldn’t get any worse, violent crime is on the rise. Homicides have risen by an average of 24 percent nationwide.

North Carolina is also seeing a sharp spike in homicides. The Queen City alone is on pace for the highest annual homicide count in recent history. Already, the count has nearly doubled the total number of homicides in 2019. Asheville and Greenville have likewise already surpassed last year’s totals.

What’s behind the killings?

It’s difficult to pinpoint any one factor that’s contributing to the increase. Likely, it’s the perfect storm of circumstances: people are stressed, out of work and stuck at home. Domestic violence is on the rise. Drug use and substance abuse are soaring.

Civil unrest, riots and political discord contribute to the unease. Amid cries to defund the police, tension between law enforcement and civilians – particularly in communities of color – are at an all-time high.

Racial inequities may be at play, too. In Charlotte, for example, 79 of the 100 homicide victims to date this year were Black. (Even more frightening, 17 of those victims were under age 20.)

And gun violence is undoubtedly a contributor. Gun sales surged following lockdowns in March. Eighty-six of the homicides in Charlotte were shootings. In Asheville, gun violence has risen 55 percent over the last three years.

Ultimately, we may not know for some time. Crime data takes time to analyze. Though theories abound, none paint the full picture. And with North Carolina courts still operating at a reduced capacity, criminal proceedings may take even longer than usual to get to the bottom of individual cases.