The rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and riots over the last decade has led to a significant increase in murder rates. According to data compiled by a study in the Journal of Urban Economics, BLM riots that took place between 2014 and 2021 resulted in over 3,000 additional murders, marking an increase of 11.5 percent.
The study suggests that following the protests, which brought public attention to instances of police using lethal force, officers became less proactive. They reportedly pulled back from enforcing laws or practices aimed at ensuring public safety due to fear of criticism, lawsuits, or low morale.
The study states, “A growing body of research has found that, after protests draw public attention to officer-involved killings, police officers become less proactive… And, as aversion to the criminal justice system increases and willingness to cooperate with law enforcement decreases, some resort to violence to resolve conflicts, potentially explaining the rise in homicides.”
The study further reported that over the five years after local BLM protests, property crime arrests decreased by roughly 12 percent, while the property crime clearance rate also dropped sharply by around 8 percent.
The study focused on over 1,000 cities and towns where at least one BLM protest took place between 2014 and 2021. It then cross-referenced this information with data on homicides, crime, and police behavior in those same localities. The experiences of cities hit by the protests from 2014 to 2015 were contrasted with those damaged by larger riots from 2020 to 2021, noting changes in police behavior during these periods.
In the summer of 2020 alone, murder rates rose by 30 percent compared to 2019, representing the single largest annual spike in murder rates since the FBI began recording this information in 1960.
The movement, although generally considered to have started with the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, did not gain widespread attention until the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. The BLM movement accelerated into a nationwide wave of violent riots following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, resulting in extensive property damage and the loss of civilian lives.