The murder rate soared to its largest year-over-year increase in 2020 since the United States began tracking the figure in 1960.
FBI crime statistics, scheduled to be released in the bureau’s official report on Monday but published on its website this week, show that the murder rate jumped 29% last year. The largest spike came in May and June of last year, according to The New York Times.
The Times reports:
The United States in 2020 experienced the biggest rise in murder since the start of national record-keeping in 1960, according to data gathered by the F.B.I. for its annual report on crime.
The Uniform Crime Report will stand as the official word on an unusually grim year, detailing a rise in murder of around 29 percent. The previous largest one-year change was a 12.7 percent increase in 1968. The national rate — murders per 100,000 — still remains about one-third below the rate in the early 1990s.
The Times notes that the FBI data may change as officials look for errors and miscalculations, but the general picture the data paint should remain the same.
While multiple factors contributed to the spike in murders, experts cited by the Times point to “various pandemic stresses; increased distrust between the police and the public after the murder of George Floyd, including a pullback by the police in response to criticism; and increased firearm carrying” as some of the main drivers. Overall, the total number of murders in 2020 was still down from its high in the 1990s. Also, the amount of crime overall fell year-over-year.
The spike in the murder rates corresponds with the outbreak of protests and riots over the death of George Floyd in May and June.
“One more graphic from the piece: here’s murders per month from  to 2020 in the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports. Murder was up slightly through Q1 2020 but took off in May/June and stayed there,” tweeted Jeff Asher, a crime analyst and author of the Times piece on the FBI data.
One more graphic from the piece: here's murders per month from 2010 to 2020 in the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Reports. Murder was up slightly through Q1 2020 but took off in May/June and stayed there. https://t.co/iHTahREsml pic.twitter.com/W5VLBHW091
— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) September 22, 2021
Aside from the percentage change, Asher also tweeted out a graphic showing the absolute change in murders from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, nearly 5,000 more murders were committed than the year before, far above the previous year-over-year increase of 1,938 in 1990.
Change in US murders from previous year, 1960-2020. pic.twitter.com/MdaM6ySrbC
— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) September 23, 2021
Floyd’s death in May 2020 sparked a wave of hundreds of riots across the United States. Floyd’s death came as a result of a confrontation with police, according to a Minnesota jury, which was posted to social media and ignited protests against “systemic racism” within police departments, as well as calls to “defund the police.”
The wave of riots hit almost every major city in the U.S. and caused billions of dollars in damages. According to one estimate, the rioting could cost insurance companies $2 billion in claims, making the Floyd riots the most expensive insurance event in U.S. history.
The corresponding protests against police contributed to a drop in morale among law enforcement and could have been the main driver in a rush of retirements from major police departments in places such as New York City and Newark.