By Greg Argos

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are some signs that the coronavirus pandemic could be driving the surge in Philadelphia’s gun violence. Researchers at Temple Health are crunching the data.

There is a theory behind why Philadelphia is so violent, and like almost everything else, Temple Health researchers believe it is directly connected to the pandemic.

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“We think that there is probably a relationship there between those two things,” Dr. Zoe Maher said.

Maher is a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital and on the team of scientists who compiled data about how lockdowns affected violence here in Philadelphia. She says the catalyst behind this study is what she and her fellow trauma doctors started seeing in mid-March 2020.

“While many of the normal things that we see in the emergency department that are not gun violence, while those rates went down, we noticed that it seems that gun violence was going up,” Maher said.

Maher and the team took looked at more than five years of shooting data going back to 2016. In that time frame, pre-COVID, an average of 25 people were shot per week in the city. Then in mid-March 2020 with the virus surging, city leaders enacted strict lockdowns.

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“When you compare the weeks in those five years prior to the containment policies to the weeks after the containment policies, the rates nearly doubled,” Maher said, “and it’s been sustained since that time.”

Already in 2021, there have been more than 62 murders, up 55% percent compared to this time last year. Just this past Monday, seven people were killed, one other hurt in five separate shootings throughout Philadelphia.

“We believe that it’s related to the fact that both COVID and gun violence are public health crisis in the city of Philadelphia which disproportionately impact specific communities and communities that have been systemically and structurally disadvantaged,” Maher said.

In a statement, a Philadelphia city spokesperson writes, in part, “While it was critical to take all CDC and science-based actions to slow the spread of covid-19 — which included enacting the city’s stay-at-home order, as well as businesses and gathering restrictions, there is no question that the pandemic contributed to job loss and reduced access to social services and youth activities designed to reduce violence.”

The spokesperson also mentioned the pandemic forced courts to close, which prevented probation officers from making personal contact with those in the criminal justice system, another factor they say has led to the increase in gun violence in Philadelphia.

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For a list of gun violence resources in Philadelphia, click here.