The Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) recently released a report analyzing 2021 crime trends in late January. The reports showed a continued increase in homicides, continuing the previous yards trends but much lower scale.
Homicide rates were up 5 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, way lower than the approximately 30 percent increase from 2019 to 2020, the highest year-to-year spike since the 60s.
Study Covered 22 States
The CCJ report drew data from 22 cities, including Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. Cities that recorded the most notable homicide spikes include St. Petersburg, Austin, and Washington, D.C., which registered 108, 86, and 16 percent increases.
While most of the cities included in the study showed an increase in homicides, six showed a reduction, with Seattle and Omaha showing the most significant drops at 25 and 24 percent, respectively. All the cities included in the study recorded 218 murders, more than in the same cities in 2020.
While overall homicide rates may seem to be on an uptick, they were far from the situation three decades ago. In 1993, the same cities recorded nearly double the death rates recorded in 2021. 29 years ago, the death rate was 28 deaths per 100,000 residents compared to 15 deaths per 10,000 recorded in 2021.
Based on the findings from the CCJ study, experts theorize the pressures of COVID-19 were a significant factor in the change in homicide trends from 2019. With job losses, social isolation, and general uncertainty across cities in America, many people were tense, nervous, and struggling to put food on the table. These factors may push people to do things they would never do otherwise.
Another factor that could have played a role in this uptick is the recent change in policing. Many significant states took on a less-policing approach to fighting crime during the lockdown. In addition, nationwide social unrest and anger during this time may have resulted in increased violent activity. There was a noticeable spike in homicides in the days following the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd by a police officer, which sparked nationwide unrest and calls for police reform. The fact that these rates do not show a typical pattern across the board means that local factors also played a role.
Availability of Arms
According to Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louisone and contributor to the CCJ study, the availability of illegal and legal guns was also a significant factor in the increased homicide rates. Of all the homicides recorded in 2021, approximately three-quarters of them were committed using a gun. “Surprisingly, most of the guns used in the homicides were legally bought, raising the question of how the guns end up in the wrong hands,” says Tom Addair of Addair Law.
The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau (ATF) data indicated that the number of firearms recovered by police connected to a crime within a year of purchase was twice that of 2019. According to the ATF, 68,000 guns were recovered by police less than seven months after their purchase connected to a crime.
While the CCJ report may represent the national crime rate outlook for 2021, the FBI report, which gives a much more comprehensive violent crimes report, is expected later this year.