Murders increased nearly 30% nationwide last year, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Report data released Monday, which revealed the largest percentage of homicides involving firearms on record, amid the start of the pandemic.

Homicides and manslaughter jumped 29.4% from 2019 to 2020, the largest year-over-year spike since the federal government began tracking violent crime in the 1960s. well below the peak of murders in the United States in the 1980s and early 1990s, 4,901 more murders took place in 2020, compared to 2019.

The FBI documented more than 21,500 murders last year – a wave that largely matches the 18-month coronavirus pandemic and stands at around 6.5 per 100,000 people.

“The numbers are very concerning,” FBI Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division Michael Christman told CBS News in an exclusive interview. “Now that we’ve collected these numbers, we want to put a lot of analytical effort behind these numbers. And we want to identify trends. I use the word commonalities. Anything we can do to educate law enforcement or to provide training on those numbers, ”said Christman, who heads the FBI’s data collection programs.

One common thread that the FBI noticed was the use of firearms. 77% of homicides reported in 2020 were committed with a firearm, the highest percentage ever reported, up from 74% in 2019. And although there is no federal database on purchases of Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks gun violence in the United States, recorded 43,559 gun deaths in 2020, up from 39,538 the year before.

“We have seen a stockpile of the American public buying weapons from the Obama administration to the Trump administration to the Biden administration,” said Everett Penn, professor of criminology at the University of Houston Clear Lake. . “We know that these murders often happen between people who know each other. Before, it might have been an argument or a discussion, maybe even a fight. But now the conflict can degenerate into the use of firearms. “

Although violent crime also increased 5.6% in 2020, property crime declined 7.8%, according to the bureau. Assaults increased by 12%.

Major cities have seen an increase in murder rates, although most have hovered below their peak years. New York City recorded around 500 murders in 2020, up from 319 in 2019. Yet the two homicide statistics are a far cry from the more than 2,200 murders recorded in 1990. Los Angeles recorded 351 murders last year, compared to 258 in 2019, well below its record. 1,010 murders in 1980. Chicago reported 771 murders last year, up from around 500 in 2019, but below the city’s 936 murders in 1992.

FBI data revealed that mid-sized cities, especially in the Midwest, saw larger spikes in murder, with Milwaukee and Des Moines reporting their highest number of homicides on record.

Law enforcement officials, criminologists and research analysts have tracked the sudden rise in killings alongside societal transformations marked by a series of hot spots: the COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide shutdowns and the debate over police reform following the murder of George Floyd in police custody.

“The pandemic, and in particular, the shutdown we saw in 2020, changed people’s routines – the way they lived their lives. People weren’t going to school, to work, to training. , at church, “John Roman, Senior Fellow at the University of Chicago’s NORC Research Institute, said. “And what that meant was that the places with long histories of violence and trauma were all sitting at home doing nothing. A lot of old scores were settled and even created new quarrels, new ones. oxen .. “

For his part, Penn found that the COVID-19 shutdown deprived communities of normal social opportunities. As the executive director of the Teen And Police Service Academy (TAPS), Penn leads a program to reduce the social distance between police and young people – a task made more difficult by health guidelines mandated by the CDC amid the pandemic.

“We work face to face. Our program did not have the phew, the connectivity he had before, “Penn conceded, although the students and officers attended regular zoom meetings.” Who knows how many problems could have been solved? Unfortunately, COVID-19 has robbed us of our ability to meet face to face. “

Other studies, including the National Commission for Covid-19 and Criminal Justice or NCCCJ have confirmed the FBI’s findings, determining in its own survey of 34 major cities that homicides had increased by around 30% between 2019 and 2020.

The Uniform Crime Report represents the most comprehensive examination of crime nationwide, although law enforcement agencies are still not required to submit their data to the FBI. A total of 15,875 agencies out of more than 18,000 submitted their data to the FBI in 2020, an attendance of about 85%.

“It is absolutely essential that we have full reports so that we can relay a full picture and see what is happening across the country,” said Amy Blasher, head of the crime statistics unit and the ‘law application. The FBI concedes that the coronavirus pandemic presented obstacles to routine data collection, as many state and local governments were forced to work remotely from the start.

“[The pandemic] was a challenge. We certainly heard that from the states early on, ”Blasher told CBS News. ” Corn [FBI] resources have always been made available, and we have worked with our agencies to remove some of these barriers early on. “

Next year, the FBI’s annual report will demand even more data from law enforcement agencies. From next year, police departments across the country will be required to submit details of crimes committed, including information on the relationship between offenders and victims, as part of the national reporting system. incidents.

Fewer than 10,000 agencies reported this data in 2020. Law enforcement officials and analysts agree that a shift to more robust reporting is likely to paint a grim picture of violent crime in the near term, but lead to better understanding trends in law enforcement.

And while homicide rates have declined slightly since the summer of 2020, murders in the first quarter of 2021 have exceeded those in previous years, according to the latest report from the NCCCJ.

Create more uncertainty, last week police reform legislation who had been the subject of bipartisan negotiations for more than a year on Capitol Hill died when Democrats and Republicans in the Senate found themselves in a bind.

Supporters of reform now fear that communities will remain trapped in a never-ending cycle of violent crime.

“Every time there is a shootout, there is a new trauma. There is a new reason to fight back. And unfortunately, given the way we monitor the police with underinvestment in communities, this has to almost work it out, ”Roman said. “Until we take seriously investing in communities to prevent violence, we sit idly by, watching an epidemic without a vaccine.”

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