Source: Ronald J. Kozar

In 2014, the number of black American murder victims was 6,095. Then, after the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, anti-police protests and riots began, federal officials and mass media sympathetic to rioters brought heightened scrutiny to police practices, BLM began its career, “broken windows” policing was curtailed, and police morale plummeted.  The number of murders thereupon began to surge, never to return to 2014 levels. 

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The “excess” murder victims from 2015 through 2020 who were black — that is, the additional black victims each year beyond the 2014 baseline — add up to 11,005.  Compare that to the number of lynchings during the heyday of Jim Crow.  According to the Tuskegee Institute, the number of blacks lynched from 1882 through 1968 was 3,446.

Here are the numbers of black murder victims from 2014 through 2020:

YearNo. of Blacks Murdered“Excess” Victims
2014 6,095

The numbers come from the FBI, though the FBI report for 2020 was visible online for only a short time in 2021.  Crime analyst Jeff Asher reported the 2020 figures before the FBI took the report down.

One might object that 2014 is an unfairly low baseline against which to compare the ensuing years.  2014 seems a natural starting-point for the analysis, as that was the year of Ferguson and the founding of BLM.  But the homicide figures in 2014 represented an historic low, a fact that might make the “excess” death figures for the ensuing six years look artificially high by comparison.  With the rise of “stop and frisk” policing, the number of homicides had been trending downward each year, with minor exceptions, from 1992 through 2014. 

But even if one were to pick a more typical pre-Ferguson year, the analysis would not be much different.  Take 2010, for example, the first full year of Obama’s presidency, when the number of black murder victims totaled 6,470.  If “excess” black murder victims from 2015 through 2020 were gauged against a baseline of 2010 instead of 2014, the number would be 8,755.  That still vastly outstrips the 3,446 blacks killed by lynch mobs from 1882 through 1968.

Another objection might concern the inclusion of 2020 in the analysis.  That year saw the biggest annual increase in the number of post-Ferguson murders.  The 3,818 “excess” murders of blacks that year alone exceeds Tuskegee’s 86-year tally for lynchings of blacks.  But 2020 was also the first year of the pandemic.  Many commentators argue that the big jump in the homicide numbers that year had more to do with the lockdown and the governmental shutdown of the nation’s economy than with policy choices urged by BLM.

But 2020 was also the year of George Floyd.  His death in police custody triggered a wave of protests and riots more widespread and violent than those seen over the four years before it.  Only after Floyd’s death did the push to defund police departments, an idea hitherto confined to the most radical margins of public life, become a mainstay of urban Democrats.  The result was not a break with the Ferguson Effect but an enlargement of it.  The ensuing sanctification of Floyd and vilification of police led to a further pullback in police presence in the most troubled neighborhoods and a further increase in police retirements and resignations, a Ferguson Effect on steroids.

The murder statistics for that year point to the politics of Floyd’s death, not to the pandemic, as the cause of the 2020 surge.  Before Floyd’s death, the pandemic lockdown had driven crime rates not higher, but lower than the year before.  Homicide was an exception in some localities, with April 2020 homicide totals in New York City and Chicago, for example, showing a slight uptick from the year before.  (Since 2015, Chicago had been experiencing its own local variation of the Ferguson Effect, namely the “ACLU Effect.”)  But after Floyd’s death on May 25, homicides surged, and remained far in excess of 2019 totals for the rest of the year.  Conservative writer Steve Sailer graphed the weekly gun-death figures for 2020 gathered by the Gun Violence Archive, which showed that the seven-plus months from Floyd’s death through the end of 2020 saw 50.5 murders a day, a 41% increase upon the 35.7 murders per day for the corresponding period a year before.  Mainstream sources corroborate the timing of the post-Floyd surge, even if they do not comment on the obvious correlation. 

It is seldom easy to reliably identify the causes of social trends, but even a child can connect the dots where the increase in murders since 2014 is concerned.  The communities most afflicted by violent crime have sent an unmistakable message, through their protests, their rioting, and the pronouncements of their elected tribunes, that the police practices that brought the crime rate down after 1992 must end.  Democracy, alas, has worked exactly the way it’s supposed to, with voters telling elected officials what to do, those officials telling the police what to do, and the police obeying.  And anyone can see the results.

The most puzzling question is not what caused the surge in murders, but why the people most victimized by that surge are so heavily devoted to the policies that caused it.  Without the support of large majorities of black voters, the curtailment of “broken windows” policing and the reduction of police budgets would never have occurred.  But for the decisions of black voters, most of those 11,005 “excess” black victims might well be alive today.