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Why Greenwood, S.C., Is Not U.S. Murder Capital

In the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for 2022, some of the usual suspects, like New Orleans and St. Louis, rank near the top of murder rates per capita. But the story behind Greenwood, S.C.'s chart-topping 2022 murder rate among cities of at least 1,000 population reveals some noise in the data that is worth remembering when relying on the UCR, reports crime data analyst Jeff Asher. Greenwood, a city of about 22,000, showed a murder rate of 262 per 100,000, based on an "astounding" 58 murders, Asher wrote. South Carolina's UCR program reported the city had 29 homicides, exactly half, but showed 14 of them in July 2022. And that is where the problem began.

Based on news accounts and the Gun Violence Archive, it appears the city in July 2022 had just one murder, not 14. Asher said his "guess" is that data were input incorrectly not just in 2022, but also in 2021, mistakes that no one caught. "It shows that even published crime data on the FBI's website can be flawed," Asher wrote. "If you see a city with an implausible increase or decrease from one year to the next then usually it's due to incomplete or incorrect data reporting." The lessons also include accurate reporting by individual officers and "the need to use multiple data sources when evaluating whether a particularly noteworthy change is due to a data glitch or is a real trend," Asher wrote.


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