Cities in the US saw a significant crime spike in 2020 – and it’s not slowing down.
Here’s what’s driving the rise and how private security companies are responding.
Over the past 15 months, Americans have doubtlessly faced unprecedented challenges. Collectively, we weathered a once-in-a-generation pandemic, surging racial and political tensions, and growing social divisions. As we emerge from a tumultuous year and a half, there is no denying things aren’t where we left them in early 2020. Here, we’ll take stock of the post-pandemic world, with an eye towards increased security challenges and what you can do to stay safe in changing times.
Crime Has Risen Sharply
Major cities last year saw a 33% jump in the rate of homicides as the pandemic raged, huge protests overtook the streets, and the economy staggered amidst historic upheaval. Indeed, some analysts called 2020 the most violent year of the century. Sixty-three of the largest 66 police jurisdictions noted increases in at least one area of violent crime, including homicide, robbery, and assault, according to data released by the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Indeed, gun deaths in 2020 reached the highest point in U.S. history.
Although it’s still early, estimates suggest that this surge in crime hasn’t diminished as the pandemic receded. Data from the first three months of the year indicate that the crime spike has continued so far in 2021. In Los Angeles, homicides jumped almost 22%, from the same period in 2020, the LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the LA Police Commission last week. The nation’s other largest cities, Chicago and New York City, are also reporting similar or higher year-on-year increases over the same period.
Moreover, the US has averaged nearly one mass shooting per day so far in 2021, continuing an upward trend. So far this year, there have been 281 mass shootings in the country, which are defined by the Gun Violence Archive as four or more people shot or killed in a shooting incident.
In 2020, the US had a record-high 610 mass shootings, the most in a single year since the group began tracking in 2014.
What’s Driving the Rise in Crime?
Although it’s difficult to ascribe a rise in violent crime to any single cause, analysts have pointed a “perfect storm” of factors. Consider the increased economic strain, historic anxiety over the pandemic, huge protests that diminished police resources, and calls for reduced policing following officer-involved shootings—among other factors—and it’s unsurprising that society appears on the brink.
De-Policing and Under-resourcing
In late May of 2020, one of the largest protest movements in US history was sparked by a viral video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Tensions between police forces and communities across the country reached new highs, and led to calls to defund or even abolish the police. Although many protests were peaceful, some led to violence, looting, and the destruction of property. In the melee, many police departments were forced to shift forces and attention away from crime-prone neighborhoods to commercial or downtown areas to contain protests. In St. Louis, for example, police forces last summer attended some 160 protests in the downtown area. Many cities were feeling similarly overextended, as they faced large protests amid coronavirus restrictions. In some cities, there were reports of a deliberate pullback following simmering tensions between police and communities of color and anecdotally, many officers report a new hesitancy entering situations that may escalate, out of concern for their jobs and reputations should things take a turn for the worse.
How Private Security Firms are Meeting the Moment
All of these factors—the rise in crime, overstretched police forces, and a tinderbox of issues such as civil unrest—have led to an increased dependency on private security firms.
Businesses affected by protests—or suddenly aware of how quickly public sentiment can become negative or even turn violent—pivoted to a more agile security strategy and brought in private security firms to help with contingency planning, and site and staff security.
Residences and high-net-worth individuals equally saw the need to enhance their security postures as police forces and emergency departments appeared overstretched and under-resourced.
What’s more, it’s not only private citizens and businesses that are drawing peace of mind from having their own security in place, but public departments have increasingly relied on private security firms to bolster their forces and fill gaps left by staffing shortages. Our team, for example, was one of the first in the nation to be retained by police and fire departments at the local, state, and federal levels. We’ve supported public agencies through a range of services, including monitoring suspects in custody while they are hospitalized, and providing security in essential staging areas during complex wildfire response efforts.
Case Study 1: Protests Quickly Devolve
CAI offered a range of security services to a Fortune 100 internationally recognized brand with offices in the Bay area and Washington, D.C. When protests over the death of George Floyd swept the nation, our team was called upon to secure the corporate campus, evacuate employees, and safely relocate senior executives.
As the protests progressed, we monitored the situation in real-time. Our team saw that protests in D.C. were fanning out and sweeping into residential neighborhoods, where some protesters were throwing projectiles, vandalizing property, and even kicking in doors. As the protests neared the neighborhood of a senior executive, CAI agents stepped in and promptly relocated him and his family to a secure location until the area was again calm. In this case, having CAI on hand to provide close protection, social media monitoring, residential and corporate security fulfilled a duty of care requirement and proactively averted disaster – giving everyone peace of mind.
Case Study Two: When You Are a Target
When Bitcoin value dropped sharply earlier this year, a senior executive whose name had become associated with the cryptocurrency suddenly found himself the subject of online vitriol. He was receiving regular, credible threats. CAI experts were retained to provide wrap-around security services. Our team offered robust close protection, securing his travel locally and as he traveled to public engagements such as conferences, meetings, or speaking engagements. Our analysts also conducted around-the-clock social media monitoring for intelligence gathering and to identify and assess potential threat actors. CAI’s services allowed business to continue uninterrupted while mitigating potential threats and allowing the executive to focus on the essentials.
A Team You Can Trust
A trained, reliable team is worth its weight in gold during turbulent times. Why leave your safety up to fate when you can be ready for whatever comes your way, with a bit of simple planning?
Cooke & Associates, Inc. works with businesses, families, high-net-worth individuals, and the public sector to craft tailored security plans to help you prepare for and mitigate any threat that comes your way. Our team has decades of experience and can scale according to evolving needs and dynamic risk environments.
Get in touch today to find out how we can help.