Murder Rose by Almost 30% in 2020. It's Rising at a Slower Rate in 2021.

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The United States in 2020 experienced the biggest rise in murder since the start of national record-keeping in 1960, according to data gathered by the FBI...
The number of officers in the New York Police Department fell substantially in 2020. (Karsten Moran/The New York Times)

for its annual report on crime.

The Uniform Crime Report will stand as the official word on an unusually grim year, detailing a rise in murder of around 29%. The previous largest one-year change was a 12.7% increase in 1968. The national rate — murders per 100,000 — still remains about one-third below the rate in the early 1990s.

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The data is scheduled to be released Monday along with a news release, but it was published early on the FBI's Crime Data Explorer website.

The FBI said some numbers could change by Monday as it reviews possible discrepancies and receives updates. But the main conclusions of the data are highly unlikely to change.

Separately, an independent analysis of big cities finds at least one promising sign that the murder rate may be flattening this year: The increase in murders this summer does not appear to be as large as the record spike last summer.

Here are the main takeaways from the crime data for 2020 as well as the best evidence of where things stand so far in 2021.

The Rise in Murder Was National, Not Regional

Previously, the largest one-year increase in total number of murders was 1,938 in 1990. The FBI data shows almost 5,000 more murders last year than in 2019, for a total of around 21,500 (still below the particularly violent era of the early 1990s).

The reasons for the rise may never be fully sorted out, but analysts have pointed to many possible contributing factors, including various pandemic stresses; increased distrust between the police and the public after the murder of George Floyd, including a pullback by the police in response to criticism; and increased firearm carrying.

About 77% of reported murders in 2020 were committed with a firearm, the highest share ever reported, up from 67% a decade ago.

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The change in murder…
Jeff Asher
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