Violent crime has gone up for the first time in four years, driven by a staggering 30 percent rise in murders in 2020, as the country navigated a pandemic that left hundreds of thousands of people dead and led to a massive economic shutdown.
There were 4,901 more murders last year than in 2019, a rise of 29.4 percent, according to numbers released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday.
Overall violent crime - defined as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault - rose 5.6 percent from 2019 to 2020. Murder was followed by aggravated assault, which rose 12.1 percent. Meanwhile, reports of rape went down 12 percent and robberies fell 9.3 percent.
Monday's data came from nearly 16,000 agencies across the country. It broke down a total of 1,277,696 violent crimes and 6,452,038 property crimes reported throughout 2020.
Violent crime increased for the first time in four years, according to the latest US crime numbers from the FBI. The hike is driven by murder, aggravated assault and car theft
The estimated rate of violent crime rose to 387.8 offenses per 100,000 people in 2020
Most of it can be attributed to the staggering rise in murder, up nearly 30 percent from 2019
The 2020 murder rate is around a third less than the peak of 10.2 murders per 100,000 in 1980
The rise in murder is the biggest since the bureau began keeping track in 1960. It beats the 1968 increase of 12.7 percent as the biggest one-year change.
Still, the number of murders per capita remains well below the peak recorded in the 1980s and early 90s.
In 2020, the estimated rate of violent crime was 387.8 offenses per 100,000 people, up from 366.7 per 100,000 in 2019.
Meanwhile, the bureau reported 551 less sworn officers across local, state, federal, university and tribal agencies despite 130 more departments submitting staffing data this year.
Experts attribute the rise in crime to a number of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, distrust between the police and the public after the murder of George Floyd, a pullback by the police in response to criticism and increased firearm carrying, according to the New York Times, which reviewed preliminary data last week.
Pandemic-related economic shutdowns cost millions of Americans their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of people found themselves having to care for sick relatives and pay for sudden medical or funeral costs.
About 77 percent of murders in 2020 were committed with a firearm, the highest share ever reported, up from 67 percent a decade ago, New Orleans-based crime analyst Jeff Asher told the Times.
'We know having a gun in your home, having a gun in public, makes you less safe and more likely to be a victim and perpetrator of gun violence,' Ari Davis, a policy analyst at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told the Washington Post.
Nonviolent crimes were less of a problem, with property crime dropping 7.8 percent compared to last year. Burglary fell 7.4 percent and larceny thefts fell 10.6 percent. Motor vehicle thefts, however, rose 11.8 percent.
Victims of property crimes, excluding arson, lost estimated at $17.5 billion in 2020, according to the FBI.
Experts attribute the rise in crime to COVID-19 and last year's police killings of unarmed black people, which ignited protests like the one above in September 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri
Law enforcement agencies reported less sworn police officers this year than in 2019 after Black Lives Matter protesters called to 'defund the police' in last year's protests
Louisiana led the country in murder for the 32nd straight year, with a homicide rate of 15.8 per 100,000 people compared to the national average of 6.5 people per 100,000.
One of the most interesting statistics in Monday's batch is the lower number of uniformed officers reported across a greater number of police agencies.
In 2019, there were 3.5 employees per 1,000 people in the US, compared to 3.4 last year.
Police departments reported less sworn officers but about 3,000 more civilian employees.
This shift is consistent with national calls to 'defund the police,' which activists say means taking money out of police departments, or budgets for armed officers, and putting it toward other organizations and first responders better equipped to handle issues of mental health and substance abuse.
The movement grew in popularity after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor ignited protests across the country, some of which turned violent, last summer.
NYPD crime statistics through September 5, showing a slight decrease in overall crimes
In Monday's release, the bureau warned against rankings and lists compiled by publications using crime data.
'Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction,' the bureau warned.
In New York City, crime in August 2021 dropped 5.4 percent compared to the same time last year.
Crime in the city is at one of its lowest levels since 1995, according to CompStat, with 6,141 violent incidents compared to 1,979 in the year to date. Those incidents include murder, rape, assault, burglary, larceny and grand theft auto.
The city saw about 500 murders in 2020, up from 319 in 2019 but far below the city's worst year, 1990, when there were more than 2,200.
But despite overall crime rates being down, New York City continues to see a surge in violent crimes in some areas, with murders up a whopping 60 per cent in the Bronx alone this year, compared to 2020.
Hate crimes citywide have also soared a shocking 97.8 percent compared to last year.
De Blasio has acknowledged the rise in crime but blamed the backed-up court system for not processing cases fast enough.