Observers question if recent uptick in Houston homicides tied to pandemic

Recent uptick in Houston homicides
Recent uptick in Houston homicides

HOUSTON – The city of Houston is reporting a rise in homicide cases since the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown.

According to data, about a dozen more homicides have been reported in April and again in May compared to 2019. It raises the question of whether the stress of living in lockdown with the pandemic is contributing to the violence.

Bloody weekend -3200 Block Norfolk

Last Friday, two women, Nasim Arab and her sister, Sousan, were shot repeatedly at an apartment in 3200 block of Norfolk St. Friends and family contend one of the women’s boyfriend was involved. Police are seeking him for questioning. The shooter was last seen fleeing in a black BMW with New Jersey plates YJT-75Y.

300 San Julio - Houston Heights

The same day, an unidentified woman was murdered in her Houston Heights home. Investigators suspect it was also a domestic killing.

3300 Block Tierwester - Southeast Houston

In Third Ward, Police said a man shot to death during an argument.

17000 Imperial Valley - Northeast Houston

And Monday, another domestic disturbance where a woman was killed and her brother-in-law is being questioned, police said

Experts question if the pressure of the COVID-19 lockdown, the loss of jobs, loss of security, the loss of hope, may be playing a part in the uptick.

Criminologist Kevin Buckler, with the University of Houston Downtown, said it’s reasonable to assume tough times have an effect.

“Economic strain can put stresses on people and there’s got to be economic strain going on with this,” Buckler said. “We’re seeing a decline in the industry, we’re seeing a decline in people’s work schedules, people being laid off. So that’s got to create some economic stress. It completely makes sense that you would have an increase in terms of domestic-related assaults and homicides.”

In recent months, some observers have suggested there has been a rise in domestic violence tied to the pandemic. The two dozen increase in homicides in April and May might play into that. But professor Buckler says it’s too early to be sure of the cause.

“I think we need a few more months to figure this out and dissect it,” he said. “Because you know you’ve got this idea of what happens in a normal months and you would want to look at what the increases are from one year to the next, the next thing of this nature, and the context of the homicides as well.”

So it’s still not clear if the increased violence can be attributed to the pandemic, and it’s likely to be months before there’s enough data in for criminologists to form an opinion.