Murder rose by roughly 25 percent in 2020 according to preliminary data from the FBI. The graph on the right shows why analyzing data from big cities is the best way we have to understand current murder trends. These figures will be updated throughout the year, and data later in the year will give a much clearer picture of our anticipated murder trend compared to data collected early in the year.
Previously, the largest one-year increase in total number of murders was 1,938 in 1990. The F.B.I. data shows almost 5,000 more murders last year than in 2019, for a total of around 21,500 (still below the particularly violent era of the early 1990s).
The reasons for the rise may never be fully sorted out, but analysts have pointed to many possible contributing factors, including 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.
About 77 percent of reported murders in 2020 were committed with a firearm, the highest share ever reported, up from 67 percent a decade ago.
The change in murder was widespread — a national phenomenon and not a regional one. Murder rose over 35 percent in cities with populations over 250,000 that reported full data.