Oct 26, 2021 - News

Murder up, crime down, confusion all around in Florida

Data: Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

2021 has turned into a pretty deadly year.

What's happening: After 2020 saw a historic rise of homicides in the U.S., they have continued to surge nationally and in Tampa Bay.

Zoom in: Florida had a 14.7 percent increase in 2020, for a total of 1,285 killings. This was the state's highest spike since 1991, when 1,276 murders were recorded, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The state hasn't released any 2021 stats yet.

  • Polk County had 26 murders in 2020, compared to 10 in 2019 and 15 in 2018.
  • This year the county has already recorded 27 murders, and 23 of them have happened after June, per WFLA.
  • St. Petersburg's homicide rate is up 140% this year, WFLA also reports, jumping from 15 during Jan-Aug 2020 to 24 in the first eight months of 2021.

But, but, but: Other types of crime are consistently down.

  • St. Pete Police reported rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and larceny have all dropped, some as much as 21%.
  • Those crimes also dropped throughout Florida in 2020, but violent crimes increased by 2.3% according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's yearly report.

What they're saying: Criminologists can't seem to agree on what's behind the murder surges, Axios' Bryan Walsh reports.

  • The pandemic shut down schools, jobs and other parts of life that curb violence, Princeton University criminologist Patrick Sharkey theorized.
  • Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that his county's murder rate is up while the total crime rate is down. Murders in Polk County include the shooting of a North Lakeland family and a man's beating to death of three coworkers in Davenport.

The bottom line: Don't assume the reason behind the spike, per Mother Jones.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that Polk County had 26 murders in 2020, 10 in 2019 and 15 in 2018, not 34 murders in 2020, 19 in 2019 and 27 in 2018. It has also been corrected to note that there have been 27 murders so far this year, not 34 homicides.

The story has also been corrected to note that Grady Judd is sheriff of Polk County, not Pasco County. In addition, a reference to Judd being "befuddled" has been removed. 


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Tampa Bay stories

No stories could be found

Tampa Baypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more