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 major U.S. cities, however, murder rates are far higher than the national average. Using data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metro area with the most murders in each state. Metropolitan areas are ranked by their murder rate — the number of reported murders for every 100,000 people in 2020.
It is important to note that in eight states, there is only one eligible metro area with available data. In each of these cases, which are noted, the metro area listed ranks as having the most murders by default only. In two states — Alabama and Pennsylvania — there are no qualifying metro areas with available crime data.
Though each of the metro areas on this list ranks as having the highest murder rate in its respective state, homicide rates in these places vary considerably, from 1.2 murders per 100,000 people to 27.7 per 100,000. Still, in the vast majority of the metro areas on this list, homicide rates exceed the statewide rate.
Despite the rise in homicide nationwide, murder is by far the least common form of violent crime, accounting for less than 2% of all violent crimes. Still, in most of the metro areas on this list, the overall violent crime rate exceeds the rate across the state as a whole.
To determine the metro area with the most murders in each state, 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.