The FBI has reported an almost 30% increase in murders in 2020, the biggest single-year jump since the bureau began recording crime statistics six decades ago.
The surge in murders led to an overall 5% increase in violent crime last year, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
Violence has stalked most major cities, according to the report, even as the coronavirus pandemic has imposed its own death toll across the country.
The numbers appeared to closely follow preliminary data released earlier this year by the FBI, which showed murders increased by more than 20% in 2020.
While the reported annual increase has been dramatic, the total number of homicides last year – 21,570 – did not exceed some startling totals in the early 1990s, including the nearly 25,000 murders recorded in 1991. .
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The numbers are also an incomplete assessment, as 15,897 of 18,619 eligible law enforcement agencies submitted data to the FBI last year.
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James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University professor of criminology who analyzes violent crime data, called the last year “an outlier” and perhaps not indicative of a longer-term trend.
“The past year has been unique in so many ways,” Fox said. “Because of the pandemic, people weren’t in structured activities: kids weren’t in school and adults weren’t at work. The entire country was divided by politics, the coronavirus response and the social justice movement.
These anxious conditions, Fox said, were accompanied by increased sales of firearms.
“Ultimately, these weapons are used in the heat of wrath,” he said.
FBI data generally lags behind individual police department reports, which maintain contemporary figures. And recent reports have indicated a continued increase in homicides.
A mid-year report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a coalition of the nation’s largest police departments, found homicides continued to rise.
The group reported that homicides in 2021 were ahead of last year with a number of 4,033 to 3,341 around the same time in 2020. Agencies reported a corresponding increase in rape and aggravated assault.
Alarmed by the violence, the Justice Department decided earlier this year to establish task forces to focus on gun trafficking across the country.
The units were created to disrupt networks in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, California Bay Area, Sacramento and Washington, DC