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Legal Review: Homicides Uptick in Major American Cities in 2021, New Study Shows

2021 showed an upward trajectory in the number of homicides in the United States. According to the Council of Criminal Justice report centered on data from 22 major cities, 2021 marked a 5 percent increase from numbers reported in 2020 and 44 percent higher than 2019 numbers.

Most Cities Saw an Increase in Homicides

According to the report, 16 of the 22 cities cited in the survey had increased homicides, with the highest increase being at 108 percent in St. Petersburg and the lowest in Memphis at less than one percent. In the six cities that recorded a drop in homicides, Seattle and Omaha had some of the most notable dips of 25 and 24 percent, respectively.

Despite the uptick in murders in the last two years, these rates are nothing compared to that recorded in the 1990s. Murders in 2021 represented 15 deaths per 100,000 residents, almost half of the rates recorded in 1993 that was at 28 deaths per 10,000 residents.

Factors That Fueled the Uptick

“This elevated number of homicides should be a wake-up call to elected leaders to formulate policies that will help address this problem before it gets out of hand,” says criminal defense lawyer Allen Yates of the Yates and Wheland law firm. According to experts, the high uptick in 2020 could be attributed to the pressures of COVID-19. Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the increased social disorder across America may also have played a part in fueling the uptick in violent crimes as many cities descended into weeks-long chaos. However, the difference in homicide trends across states indicates that local factors such as policing may also affect the uptick.

The CCJ study also cited the accessibility of legal and illegal guns as a significant factor. According to Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, a University of Missouri’s criminology expert and one of the authors of the CCJ report, the rate of aggravated gun assaults was 8 percent higher in 2021 than the previous year. Gun assaults accounted for a third of all murders committed in 2021.

The FBI, which had mandated to maintain the most comprehensive data on violent crime, has yet to release its 2021 report. According to its 2020 report, murder rates increased by 30 percent in 2020, representing the highest year-to-year uptick since the 1960s, when the federal agency began tracking violent crimes.

Some Crimes Were On a Downward Trend

Not all crimes experienced a surge in 2021, according to the CCJ study. There was a 12 percent dip in drug-related crimes and a decreasing trend in property crimes. Car theft continues to increase, with the study reporting a 14 percent increase from 2020.

The study also took an interest in inflation rates which rose by 7 percent in 2021, the highest rise in one year in nearly 40 years. According to Rosenfeld, there is a correlation between inflation and the crime rate. While the CCJ’s report may not be comprehensive, it paints a clear picture of the status of violent crime in America in 2021 as the nation awaits the more comprehensive FBI report later this year.

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