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Murders Soared 30 Percent in 2020 in Largest Annual Increase on Record

Police tape at a crime scene in Chicago, Ill., in 2017. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)

Murders soared 30 percent in the U.S. from 2019 to 2020 in the steepest single-year increase on record for the FBI.

More than 21,000 homicides were reported in 2020, reaching a pinnacle during the summer of the pandemic, according to the agency’s annual Uniform Crime Report released Monday. Violent crime saw an uptick of 5 percent between 2019 and 2020.

While the database presents a snapshot of crime in the country, it’s not comprehensive due to missing data, CNN reported. It potentially doesn’t reflect the true severity of the story, as only 85 percent of law enforcement agencies submitted their crime statistics in 2020.

In addition, several large metropolitan areas including New York, Chicago and New Orleans did not share their data for the final report.

Since the FBI recently changed its reporting system to the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), agencies are tasked with a higher burden of entering very specific details for each recorded offense, another factor that could lead to a lower agency participation rate.

While Monday’s report represents the annual amalgamation of crime, the FBI has also disclosed national quarterly crime reports since last year, contingent on an agency participation rate of at least 60 percent. Since only 10,000 agencies have submitted their data to NIBRS so far this year, quarterly reports could not be published for the first two quarters of 2021.

In the wake of the racial justice protests following the death of George Floyd last summer, anti-police sentiment reached a fever pitch, causing a recruitment crisis at police departments nationwide. The derogatory rhetoric, coupled with radical calls to defund the police and disband gang violence units, have led to a staggering drop in enrollment numbers. Many departments have also struggled to retain existing cops, leading to a police shortage and therefore fewer cops to curb spiraling crime.

The surge in murders has been accompanied by a broader rise in gun violence. With mass lay-offs, schools closed and children confined to home, and widespread panic over COVID transmission, the first year of the pandemic brought unprecedented social turmoil that likely translated into more gun fatalities, including suicides. The number of gun deaths between 2019 and 2020 rose nearly 4,000, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Other agencies across major cities anticipate more homicides in the next year, however, the rate of increase seems to be flattening. The UCR report indicated that overall crime has still been declining for the last twenty years, including into 2020. Other categories of crime embedded in that metric include property crimes such as robberies, residential burglaries, and larceny.

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