Special Report

American Towns With the Highest Murder Rates

The U.S. murder rate is at its highest level in nearly two and half decades. There were 21,570 murders 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 American towns, however, murder rates are far higher. Using data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 50 U.S. towns with the most murders. Towns are ranked on their murder rate — the number of reported murders for every 100,000 people in 2020. We defined towns based on population thresholds — having at least 2,500 people and less than 25,000 people.

The vast majority of the towns with the highest homicide rates are located in Southern states — including 11 in South Carolina alone. Murder rates in the towns on this list are at least seven times higher than the national murder rate. In 19 towns, the murder rate is at least 10 times the national rate. The town with the highest murder rate had 36 times as many murders per 100,000 as the national 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 criminal violence. Still, in most towns on this list, the overall violent crime rate also exceeds the national violent crime rate of 399 incidents per 100,000 people. 

Click here to see the towns with the most murders

To determine the towns with the most murders, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed murder figures from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report. The rates of murders per 100,000 people were calculated using population data from the FBI.

We defined towns based on population thresholds — having at least 2,500 people and less than 25,000 people — using five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. Limited data was available in the 2020 UCR for areas in Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, though these places were not excluded from analysis. 

Additional information on the violent crime rate is also from the 2020 FBI UCR.