US Cities See Increase in Murder Rates: Report

US Cities See Increase in Murder Rates: Report Police tape blocks a street Police tape blocks a drug related event in Kensington in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 19, 2021. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Friday, 07 January 2022 09:20 AM

Homicides in many U.S. cities were up last year, when several municipalities set records for number of murders.

Philadelphia; Portland, Oregon; Louisville, Kentucky; and Albuquerque, New Mexico each posted its deadliest year on record, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-largest city, had 562 homicides — surpassing its previous high of 500 set in 1990.

Homicides rose by 4% in 22 major American cities through the third quarter of 2021, according to the Council on Criminal Justice.

Experts cited various reasons for the surge in murders:

  • Stress from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Weakened relations between law enforcement and Black communities after police killings, such as that of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
  • Calls for defunding the police, bail reform, and moves to bring fewer prosecutions in some cities.

Among the 12 cities that experienced record levels of violence in 2021, many have instituted sweeping reforms over the past two years to reduce police funding, overhaul law enforcement policies, or put fewer people behind bars, The Washington Examiner reported Dec. 28.

At least 12 major U.S. cities set annual homicide records with three weeks remaining in 2021.

Last year’s statistics followed 2020, which was one of the most violent years in decades.

U.S. murders in 2020 rose nearly 30% from 2019 to 21,570 — the largest single-year increase ever recorded by the FBI.

While up overall, the 2021 murder rate slowed in some cities. New York City, which recorded a nearly 45% increase in 2020, had a 4% murder rise through Dec. 26, 2021, when compared with the same period the prior year, WSJ reported.

Chicago, which had a 55% increase in 2020, had a 3% rise in 2021.

In Dallas, murders were down 13% in 2021 after the city had its highest murder total in more than 15 years in 2020, WSJ said.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said a key to reducing the murder rate was getting police officers re-engaged.

"Our police officers nationally have felt unappreciated; they felt under fire," Garcia said, according to WSJ. "That’s led to disengagement in our communities where we need to engage even more."

Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, predicted that murder rates will drop back down to pre-pandemic levels in coming years.

"Some of the acute conditions that gave rise to the increase we saw last year have begun to subside in many places," Rosenfeld, citing the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd, told WSJ.