FBI finds US crime rate steady in 2021, but data incomplete

Oct 6, 2022, 11:38 AM | Updated: 9:41 pm
FILE - An FBI seal is seen on a wall on Aug. 10, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. The FBI estimates violent cri...

FILE - An FBI seal is seen on a wall on Aug. 10, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. The FBI estimates violent crime rates didn’t increase substantially last year, though they remained above pre-pandemic levels, according to annual crime data released Wednesday, Oct. 6. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI estimates violent crime rates didn’t increase substantially last year, though they remained above pre-pandemic levels, according to annual crime data. But the report presents an incomplete picture, in part because it doesn’t include some of the nation’s largest police departments.

Violent and property crime generally remained consistent between 2020 and 2021, with a slight decrease in the overall violent crime rate and a 4.3% uptick in the murder rate, both of which are not considered statistically significant, the analysis found. That suggests an improvement over 2020, when the murder rate in the U.S. jumped 29% during the COVID-19 pandemic that created huge social disruption and upended support systems.

The report, released Wednesday, comes with major caveats — about 40% of law-enforcement agencies didn’t participate, including big cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, after a major overhaul in the reporting system.

The report comes at a key time politically, just weeks before the midterm elections where crime is major campaign issue for Republicans running on law-and-order platforms. Many Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to heed calls for criminal justice reform after widespread protests in 2020 and voter concerns about public safety.

The incomplete data could be ripe ground for politicians and activist groups to use the figures to push their talking points. But with so many major cities failing to report even a single crime, experts say the picture of crime in the U.S. remains cloudy.

The increase that started in 2020 has defied easy explanation. Experts point to several potential factors: the pandemic that has killed more than 1 million people in the U.S., gun violence, worries about the economy, high inflation rates and intense stress.

The FBI’s voluntary collection of data from police across the country has long been an important gauge for understanding crime in the United States, but the drop in the number of agencies reporting means the report relied much more heavily on estimation, said Ames Grawert, senior counsel at the justice program at the Brennan Center for Justice. The findings could mean that crime rates are leveling off, but it’s hard to say for sure.

“Some significant care has to be used in extracting conclusions from here,” he said.

The low participation is largely because this is the first report under a major overhaul in the reporting system. The New York Police Department, for their part, said the new reporting requirements made it unable to submit the year’s crime statistics by the deadline, though it didn’t specify exactly why.

The overhaul will eventually make crime data more modern and detailed, federal officials said, but the switchover can be complicated for police departments. The 2021 FBI report did have data from more than 11,000 departments.

Its findings largely track with the National Crime Victimization Survey are also similar to another report from the nonpartisan think tank the Council on Criminal Justice. That analysis of violent crime data surveyed 27 cities, including many big agencies that didn’t make the FBI’s uniform crime report this year. It found a 5.6% increase in the murder rate over 2020.

About 79% of the murders in 2020, meanwhile, involved a firearm, the highest percentage since at least 1968, the oldest records posted by the Centers for Disease Control online, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Violent crime, and specifically gun crime, continues to be a huge challenge for our nation,” said Art Acevedo, the former chief of police in Houston and Miami. The number of guns sold in the U.S. also hit record-setting highs as the coronavirus pandemic took hold and continue to remain strong.

Acevedo and other gun-safety advocates decry the loosening of gun laws, especially in conservative-leaning states around the U.S.

“We are making our officers work with one arm tied behind their back with these loosening of these laws,” he said. Gun-rights supporters, meanwhile, argue that looser regulations make it easier for people to follow the law and practice Second Amendment rights.

Violent crime overall, meanwhile, remains far lower than the historic highs of the 1990s.


Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - An immigrant considered a threat to public safety and national security waits to be processe...
Associated Press

High court to hear arguments over Biden’s deportation policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up a dispute over a blocked Biden administration policy that would prioritize deportation of people in the country illegally who pose the greatest public safety risk. Republican-led states sued and won a nationwide court order that is meant to limit immigration officers’ discretion in deciding whom to […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk to each other...
Associated Press

China ready for ‘closer partnership’ with Russia in energy

BEIJING (AP) — China is ready to “forge closer partnership” with Russia in energy, a state news agency quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a letter Tuesday, potentially expanding ties that irk Washington by helping the Kremlin resist sanctions over its war on Ukraine. The announcement gave no details. It said Xi made the […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Storms could spawn major tornadoes, floods in several states

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Forecasters warned of the potential for strong tornadoes that could stay on the ground for long distances in parts of the South on Tuesday, as well as flooding rains and hail the size of tennis balls. More than 25 million people will be at risk as Tuesday’s potent storm system moves […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Apple Music reveals top music in 2022 and listener charts

NEW YORK (AP) — “Stay,” the smash hit by The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber topped Apple Music’s global song chart in 2022 as the giant music streamer released its end-of-year lists and provided listeners with data on their own most listened-to tunes. “Stay,” which stayed atop the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks this […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

US bat species devastated by fungus now listed as endangered

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Biden administration declared the northern long-eared bat endangered on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to save a species driven to the brink of extinction by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease. “White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at unprecedented rates,” said Martha Williams, director […]
8 hours ago
Residents do repair works on a recently damaged building during a Russian strike in the southern ci...
Associated Press

Uneasy calm grips Ukraine as West prepares winter aid

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — An uneasy calm hung over Kyiv on Tuesday as residents of the Ukrainian capital did what they could to prepare for anticipated Russian missile attacks aiming to take out more energy infrastructure as winter sets in. To ease that burden, NATO allies made plans to boost provisions of blankets, generators and […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
FBI finds US crime rate steady in 2021, but data incomplete