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Violent Crime Reports Dropped Slightly Last Year, FBI Says

Reported violent crime in the U.S. dropped slightly last year from 1,326,600 incidents in 2020 to 1,313,200 in 2021, the FBI said in a new report released Wednesday. The 2020 figure was up 5.6 percent from 2019, however.

The murder total increased from 22,000 in 2020 to 22,900 in 2021, a rise of 4.3 percent on top of a 29.4 percent increase in 2020.

From 2020 to 2021, the robbery total decreased 8.9 percent, a major contributor the decrease in overall violent crime amid increases in murder and rape.

The FBI's report differed somewhat from the recently-released BJS National Crime Victimization Survey, which is based on interviews with crime victims. That report estimated that robberies rose from 437,260 in 2020 to 464,280 in 2021. Many crimes are not reported to law enforcement, accounting for much of the difference.

The number of violent crime victimizations of persons 65 or older increased by 8.9 percent from 2020 to 2021.

The national property crime rate decreased by 4.5 percent, led by drops in burglary/breaking and entering, and larceny/theft cases.

Clearance rates -- the percentage of reported crimes reported solved by law enforcement, fell last year compared to 2020 for both violent and property crimes.

The number of drug-related offenses increased compared to 2020 in every category except for marijuana/hashish.

Soaring murder totals since the onset of the pandemic have made crime a major issue in local and national elections. Law-enforcement agencies have been working to reduce shootings both in cities and rural areas.

National crime estimates for 2021 are based on unusually low participation by local law-enforcement agencies as the FBI continues a decades-long a transition to a new data-collection system.

Law-enforcement agencies covering 65 percent of the population submitted data to the new National Incident-Based Reporting System in 2021.

The new system includes more details about each incident. Many law-enforcement agencies have been slow to use the new system.

Most agencies in three populous states—California, Florida and New York—didn’t report figures, including police departments in the two largest cities, New York City and Los Angeles.

The FBI says the new system will become more accurate as more agencies participate. It said the new system “provides the opportunity to know more about, and better understand, various facets of crime in our nation,” including demographic information on victims and those arrested.

Working with the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the FBI said it developed a way to estimate crime totals for the agencies that didn’t report.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University said that, "With so many agencies failing to report a full year of data for 2021, this year’s annual crime data release will have significant blind spots."

“When you’re having to estimate for 40 percent of the agencies, that’s going to be a problem, ” criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, tells the Wall Street Journal. “During this uptick in homicide…you really want accurate data.”

Rosenfeld, who studies crime trends for the Council on Criminal Justice, said the FBI estimates for 2021 are similar to a five percent murder rise he found in 27 cities last year.

Rosenfeld said murder totals might be receding, citing data the Council on Criminal Justice has collected showing homicides in 29 large cities in the first six months of 2022 were down two percent from the same period last year. “We still have a ways to go to get to prepandemic levels,” he said.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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