The United States recorded its sharpest increase in homicides in decades, according to the CDC. Between 2019 and 2020, murders rose by 30%, with the public health data confirming what the crime statistics had been reporting.
“It is the largest increase in 100 years,” Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told CNN. “The only larger increase since we’ve been recording these data occurred between 1904 and 1905, and that increase was most likely — at least partly — the result of better reporting.”
The previous highest increase was 20% between 2000 and 2001, with the increase attributed to the September 11 terror attacks. Between 2019 and 2020, the rate increased from 6 homicides per 100,000 people to 7.8 homicides per 100,000 people. Though the increase was the most dramatic on record, the homicide rate is still lower than the height of violent crime in the 1980s, when it was recorded as more than 10 homicides per 100,000 people.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report recorded about 21,570 homicides nationally in 2020, compared to 16,425 murders in 2019.
The homicide rates reflect the increase in shooting deaths throughout the country, which were up 14% from 2019 to 2020. In 2019, there were 11.9 firearm deaths per 100,000 in 2019, and 13.6 per 100,000 in 2020.
Criminologists pointed to unemployment and people being stuck at home for months, which often lead to stress, anger, and economic anxiety. Additionally, there were less police officers on the streets due to illness and social distancing rules, which led to less monitoring in vulnerable areas and made these neighborhoods more susceptible to criminals.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said the rise in shooting reflect the overall tensions and violence throughout American society. “People seem to have lost all civility, and then you couple that with having to stay home, and being stressed from that, losing your job, losing resources, fear for your health, more guns,” he told CNN. “I think we need to figure out how we de-conflict our society.”