The FBI reported a nearly 30% increase in homicides in 2020, the biggest single-year jump since the bureau began recording crime statistics six decades ago.
The increase in homicides led to an overall increase in violent crime by 5% last year, according to FBI similar crime report.
The report found that violence erupted in most major cities, even as the coronavirus pandemic fixed its own fatality toll across the country.
The numbers appeared to closely track preliminary data released by the FBI earlier this year, which showed homicides rose more than 20% in 2020.
Although the reported annual increase was dramatic, the total number of homicides last year – 21,570 – did not surpass the somewhat surprising totals in the early 1990s, including the nearly 25,000 homicides recorded in 1991.
The numbers are also an incomplete assessment, as 15,897 of the 18,619 eligible law enforcement agencies submitted data to the FBI last year.
James Allen Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University who closely analyzes violent crime statistics, called the last year an “aberration” and probably did not indicate a long-term trend.
“Last year was unique in many ways,” Fox said. “Because of the pandemic, people weren’t in structured activities: children weren’t in school and adults weren’t at work. The whole country was divided by politics, the response to the coronavirus, and the social justice movement.”
With those worrying conditions came an increase in gun sales, Fox said.
“After all, those guns are the ones to be used in the heat of anger,” he said.