The United States saw its biggest increase in murders last year amid the pandemic but the rates have slowed amid the recovery this year, according to FBI data obtained by The New York Times.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which will be released next week, show that murders rose about 29% from 2019 to 2020. The previous largest increase in murders was 12.7% in 1968.
But even with the spike last year, murders remained more than 30% below their highs in the early 1990s.
In total, murders rose by almost 5,000 to 21,500 last year, well below the early 90s. The previous largest increase was 1,938 murders in 1990.
About 77% of murders last year were committed with a firearm, up from 67% a decade earlier.
Murders especially rose quickly after the pandemic began in the spring. But other major crimes fell about 4 to 5% last year.
Murders are still up this year but the rate has slowed to around 10% from 2020.
Democratic and Republican cities alike:
Some critics have blamed Democratic policies and “defund the police” rhetoric for the murder spike but data shows that Democratic and Republican cities largely saw the same increases last year.
Murder was up at least 20% in counties carried by both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
Cities with over 250,000 residents saw murders increase about 35%, compared to 40% in cities between 100,000 and 250,000 and 25% in cities under 25,000.
Murders increased by at least 20% in every geographic region of the country, including a 30% increase in the Midwest.
One rate that remained consistent: Louisiana recorded the highest murder rate for the 32nd consecutive year.
What’s to blame?
Experts have pointed to a variety of factors behind the pandemic murder spike.
Some have blamed the stress of the pandemic. Others point to a documented police pullback following the protests over the killing of George Floyd.
Some police departments have seen high rates of retirements since the pandemic and the protests began but data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows virtually no change in the number of people working at police departments.
Still, some cities saw large declines. New York City has, for example, lost 2,500 officers between 2019 and 2020.