Homicides in America have been on the rise. According to a Guardian headline: “US records largest annual increase in murders in six decades.” This trend has happened in large and small cities, by region and by state. Experts say there are several reasons. American society has been shaken by the pandemic, and gun purchases are at an all-time high, according to FBI statistics.
In metropolitan areas across the country, the increase in homicides last year eclipsed the national surge — in some cases, many times. Using metro area-level data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. identified the major U.S. city where homicide is soaring.
Among the cities we considered, the number of murder cases surged anywhere from 40% to 500% between 2019 and 2020. Though these cities span the country, the largest concentration is in midwestern states.
It is important to note that while murders are rising rapidly in many metro areas, many of these cities are still relatively safe. In fact, most of these cities have a lower overall violent crime rate than the national rate of 388 incidents per 100,000 people.
The city where homicides are rising the most is Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Here are the details:
- Year-over-year increase in homicide: +500.0% (+10)
- 2020 homicide rate: 4.4 per 100,000 people (12 total murders)
- 2019 homicide rate: 0.7 per 100,000 people (two total murders)
- 2020 violent crime rate: 252 per 100,000 people (691 total)
- Population: 274,312
This surge in homicides in Cedar Rapids is by far the highest increase of any large U.S. metro area. The 12 murders reported in the metro area in 2020 were up from two in the previous year. Despite the worst-in-the-nation increase, the local murder rate of 4.4 for every 100,000 people remains well below the U.S. rate of 6.5 per 100,000 people.
Most homicide victims in the city last year were under age 30. City police officials attribute the spike, in part, to the pandemic, which sent unemployment soaring and exacerbated certain stressors that are tied to violent crime. Joblessness in the Cedar Rapids metro area more than doubled from 3.0% in 2019 to 6.2% in 2020.
In identifying the city where homicide is soaring, 24/7 Wall St. ranked the metro areas on the percentage increase in total murders from 2019 to 2020. In the case of a tie, the metro area with the largest percentage increase in the murder rate was ranked higher. Only those metro areas with populations of at least 250,000 residents and at least one homicide in 2019 were considered.