The U.S. murder rate is at its highest level in nearly two and half decades. A total of 21,570 murders were committed nationwide in 2020, up nearly 30% from the previous year — the largest annual increase on record.
The rash of deadly violence came during a tumultuous year in American history. The COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures and left millions of Americans out of work. The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer rattled confidence in American law enforcement and sparked nationwide protests. Firearm sales soared, resulting in the proliferation of tens of millions of new guns. Here is a look at the states where gun sales are surging.
Some experts speculate that each of these factors likely played a role in the rising homicide rate. While it may be years before the precise causal factors are identified, the effects are being felt in communities across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists homicide as a contributing factor in the historic 1.5-year decline in life expectancy in the U.S. last year — trailing only COVID-19 and accidental deaths, like drug overdoses, in significance.
Currently, the national murder rate stands at 6.5 homicides for every 100,000 people. In many U.S. cities, however, murder rates are far higher than the national average. Using data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 50 U.S. metro areas with the most murders. Metropolitan areas are ranked on their murder rate — the number of reported murders for every 100,000 people in 2020.
The majority of the metro areas with the highest homicide rates are located in Southern states — including five in Louisiana alone.
Despite the rise in homicide nationwide, murder is by far the least common form of violent crime, accounting for less than 2% of all criminal violence. Still, in most of the metro areas with the highest homicide rates, the overall violent crime rate exceeds the national violent crime rate of 399 incidents per 100,000 people.
To determine the 50 metro areas with the most murders, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed murder figures from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report. The rate of murders per 100,000 people was calculated using population data from the FBI.
Limited data were available in the 2020 UCR for areas in Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, though these places were not excluded from analysis. Only metro areas for which the boundaries defined by the FBI match the boundaries as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau were considered.
Additional information on the violent crime rate is also from the 2020 FBI UCR.