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October 5, 2022

Latest, but not greatest, FBI crime numbers show murders up in 2021, but overall violent and property crime down

This Time article, headlined "Homicides Continued to Increase in 2021, According to the FBI's Flawed Crime Report," highlights the challenges of reporting on the challenging latest crime data from the FBI.  (This Brennan Center Explainer, titled "Understanding the FBI’s 2021 Crime Data: Changes to the way the FBI reports national crime data may significantly complicate public understanding of recent crime trends," provides context.")   Here are the essentials from the Time piece:

The pandemic surge in violence continued across the U.S. in 2021, with homicides rising by 4.3% over the previous year, according to estimates from the FBI’s annual crime report, released Wednesday.  The estimated 22,900 murders and other killings last year would bring the nation’s homicide rate to 6.9 per 100,000 — the highest in almost 25 years. The 2021 increase is on top of the nearly 30% spike in homicides the U.S. experienced between 2019 and 2020.

However, the FBI report—the most comprehensive picture of crime rates and trends in the U.S. — comes with a giant asterisk this year. Because the FBI switched how it collects crime data from local law enforcement agencies, up to 40% of police departments — including major ones like the New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department—are missing from the report.

As a result, the FBI used estimates to calculate national crime figures. The FBI’s range of estimates means that homicides, for instance, may have increased more than 4.3% in 2021, or may have actually decreased.

According to the FBI’s data, overall violent crime decreased by 1%, led by a drop in robberies.  Property crime decreased by 3.8%However, rape increased by 3.4%. Reported drug crimes also increased for all drug categories, except marijuana.  Methamphetamine saw the biggest jump, surging by 17.8%.

It is quite discouraging that the spike in murders in 2020 was apparently not only a one-year ugly reality.  But somewhat encouragingly, this AH Datalytics dashboard focused on murder in large cities suggests that murders are generally down nationwide nearly 5% in 2022 compared to 2021 in our larger cities.  So there is at least some basis to hope that 2021 represented a recent murder peak (assuming the FBI data is right that there was an increase in 2021).  

October 5, 2022 at 04:03 PM | Permalink


I wonder how much of the drop in the non-murder categories can be attributed to them no longer being prosecuted? You can walk into a CVS in California, openly take hundreds of dollars of inventory, and then walk out without fear of prosecution.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 8, 2022 1:05:39 PM

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