Sep 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. violent crime rate rose for first time in four years in 2020

A police officer outside of a home in Farmingville, New York, in July 2021.

A police officer outside of a home in Farmingville, New York, in July 2021. Photo: Steve Pfost/Newsday RM via Getty Images

The estimated number of violent crimes in the United States rose for the first time in four years in 2020, according to statistics released by the FBI on Monday.

Why it matters: Legal experts told Axios' Russell Contreras that social-economic changes, like increases in unemployment, set off by the coronavirus pandemic likely contributed to the violent crime spike.

  • The data is based on reports from 15,897 federal, state, county, city, university and college and tribal agencies that participated in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program that year.
  • Because some law enforcement agencies did not participate in the program, the statistics should be considered estimates.

By the numbers: There were an estimated 1,277,696 violent crimes and 6,452,038 property crimes in 2020.

  • The estimated rate of violent crime — such as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — was 387.8 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, a 5.6% increase from 2019's rate.
  • The projected number of aggravated assaults increased by 12.1%, and murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses increased by 29.4%. That’s the highest single-year spike in killings in at least six decades.
  • The rate of property crimes like burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson was around 1,958.2 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, an 8.1% decline from 2019.
  • Victims of property crimes suffered losses estimated at $17.5 billion last year, excluding losses from arsons.

Yes, but: The rate of some violent crimes, like murder, remains far lower than rates recorded throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

  • It's also currently unknown if the spike has continued into this year, though homicides were trending at higher-than-normal levels in multiple cities at the start of the summer.

The big picture: Democrats fear the rise in violent crime could damage their party's performance in the 2022 midterms as Republicans tie the increase to progressive calls to "defund the police" in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.

Go deeper: FBI report shows hate crimes at highest level in 12 years

Go deeper