A survey by the think tank Council on Criminal Justice finds that the homicide totals in 22 U.S. cities were up five percent last year over 2020, a much smaller rise than in the first year of the pandemic when the number rose about 30 percent. Sixteen of the 22 cities reported a rise in homicide, ranging from 108 percent in St. Petersburg, Fl., to under one percent in Memphis and Baltimore. Six cities, including Seattle and Omaha, reported a decline.
Murder has declined substantially in the U.S. since the 1990s, although there were increases in 2005 and 2006, and again in 2015 and 2016. In 2021, the homicide rate for the cities studied was about half of the rate 29 years ago (15 deaths per 100,000 residents in those cities versus 28 per 100,000 in 1993).
The study’s authors called on policymakers to redouble anti-violence efforts. “While it is encouraging to see a slowdown in the recent homicide increase, the bloodshed continues, and at least 10 U.S. cities lost historic numbers of residents to murder last year,” said Council Senior Fellow Thomas Abt, chair of the organization's Violent Crime Working Group. “This is not acceptable. We know there are multiple strategies with a
track record of success in reducing violence. We need to break through our divisive politics and put these evidence-backed solutions in place now.”
“The elevated rates of homicide and serious assaults require an urgent response from elected leaders,” said the study’s co-author, University of Missouri St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld.
The new report documented increases in other violent crimes: gun assaults rose eight percent and aggravated assaults were up four percent compared to 2020 levels, while robbery rates were just one percent higher after dropping in 2020.
News accounts have reported increases in carjackings and theft from or robberies of trains. These subcategories were not included in the report because they are rarely recorded separately by law
Drug violations and most property crimes fell in 2021. Motor vehicle theft was the only nonviolent crime that has increased throughout the pandemic, rising 14 percent last year.
The report looked at crime rates for 10 offenses in a total of 27 cities, including Atlanta, Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Memphis, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. The smallest city in the
sample was Norfolk, VA, with 245,000 residents; the largest was Los Angeles, with nearly four million. Not all cities reported data for every crime.