New Orleans records highest urban homicide rate increase during pandemic, new report shows

Homicide rates have risen by an average of 33% in 50 of the most populated U.S. cities
A New Orleans police vehicle.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

New Orleans recorded the highest homicide rate increase during the COVID-19 pandemic of any major city in the country, according to a new WalletHub report.

The personal finance website compared per capita homicides over a two-year period and found Louisiana’s largest metropolis ranked first. Cincinnati, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Detroit were next in line.

The data spanned historic pandemic lockdowns and other COVID-19-related public safety measures, and the trend keeps ticking up, study authors said.

“Alarmingly, homicide rates have risen by an average of 33% in 50 of the most populated U.S. cities between Q2 2019 and Q2 2021, and are still rising,” the report said.

Statistics were compared among cities in 2021, then from 2021 and 2020, and finally from 2021 to 2019.

New Orleans’ 18 homicides per 100,000 residents in Q2 2021 topped the list, as did its 7.42 homicide increase since Q2 2019.

The increase also was twice as high in so-called “blue cities,” determined by each state’s 2020 presidential election outcome, making New Orleans a "red city" in the report.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting definition for homicide was applied, which includes murder and voluntary manslaughter. Deaths caused by negligence, attempts to kill, assaults to kill, suicides, accidental deaths and justifiable homicides are excluded.

Reasons for the spike in violence are a matter of some debate.

Christopher Salvatore, associate professor at Montclair State University, said a combination of factors were to blame.

“The last year has been a period of instability and challenge with COVID, social unrest, and political change,” Salvatore said. “During these periods, faith in social institutions waivers, like the criminal justice system, and overall social control may weaken.”

Matthew Hale, associate professor at Seton Hall University, suggested “unemployment and under-employment” were prime factors for increased violence and illegal activity, while mentioning several issues concerning law enforcement.

“In some places, redeploying police resources toward social unrest is leading to less police in high crime areas. In other places, it may be police fear of doing their job because of the heightened scrutiny,” he said.