The Margin: FBI reports a record 30% rise in homicides in 2020


Last year was truly a horror show. 

As if a devastating global pandemic and its subsequent economic meltdown, a global reckoning on racism and police brutality, and a contentious U.S. election weren’t enough to cement 2020 as an especially grim 12 months, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its Uniform Crime Report on Monday — and homicides increased 30% last year. 

The latest FBI data is notable not just because it’s the first time in four years that the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation increased over the previous year. But this also marks the largest single-year spike in homicides since the FBI began collecting data in the 1960s. 

The report counts 21,570 homicides last year — a tragic figure that still falls short of highs reported in the early 1990s, including almost 25,000 murders in 1991 alone. 

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But it should be noted that this is an incomplete report, since only about 85% of law-enforcement agencies (15,875 out of more than 18,000) submitted their data in 2020. In fact, participation in this report is optional, and major cities such as New York, Chicago and New Orleans did not submit their data from last year, CNN noted.

The FBI estimates that 1,277,696 violent crimes were committed last year, putting the rate of violent crime at 387.8 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, which was up 5.6% from the previous year. While the estimated number of robberies and rapes fell 9.3% and 12%, respectively, aggravated assaults rose 12.1%, and murders and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses jumped 29.4%. 

Law enforcement agencies made an estimated 7.6 million arrests across the country last year, excluding arrests for traffic violations. 

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Over the summer, President Joe Biden announced a plan to combat the rising national tide of violent crime, with a particular focus on gun violence. Indeed, the new FBI report found that more than three-quarters (77%) of the murders reported last year were committed with a firearm.

Earlier this year, a report found gun sales reached a record level in 2020, with nearly 23 million firearms bought legally, up 65% from 2019.

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