Right now, the media is downplaying America’s surging homicide rates by saying, “it was still much worse in the 90s.” If you search corporate media articles about homicide, you will find this claim over and over. The media is also blaming “the pandemic,” but never shows any real evidence of this.
Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Milwaukee, Jackson, East Baton Rouge Parish, Portland, Memphis, Birmingham, Louisville, and St. Louis are twelve major cities setting new records for their homicide rates during the past year and a half. There are many more.
The two biggest reasons for the decline in homicides rates after the so-called “crack wars” of the 90s, was an increasing average age and the embrace of tough-on-crime policies at the city, state, and federal levels. From 1990 to 2010, the average age increased 5.3 years, from 32.9 to 37.2. Today the average age is 38.4. A higher average age general corresponds to lower rates of violent crime, especially homicides. Most people who commit homicide do so at a young age.
While the average age is still high, many US cities and states have wholly reversed their tough-on-crime policies.
1982: 195 homicides, the all-time record (estimated population 582k, 33.5 homicides per 100k)
2019: 118 homicides
2020: 175 homicides (estimated population 396k, 44.2 homicides per 100k)
During the first four months of 2021, there was a significantly higher number of homicides than in the same time period in 2020. The Cleveland media is also reporting that homicides rates in several Cleveland suburbs surged during the first half of 2021.
East Baton Rouge Parish, LA:
Most homicide data is parish-wide data instead of city-wide data. For a city of this size, the records on crime are sparse. Between 1991 and 2001, the parish had an average of 80 homicides per year. With a population of 383k in 1990, that gives us a homicide rate of 20.9k)
2017: 106 homicides, the former all-time high time
2019: 81 homicides
2020: 114 homicides, new all-time record estimated population 440k, 25.9 homicide per 100k)
During the first four months in 2021, East Baton Rouge Parish had significantly more homicides than the same time period in 2020. While we can not find the number of homicides for individual years in the 1990s, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports that 2020 was a new record for the parish homicide rate.
The number of homicides from January-April 2021 would correspond to a homicide rate of 45 per 100k if the killing continues at the same pace for the rest of the year.
1991: 165, homicides, the former all-time record (estimated population 623k, 26.5 homicides per 100k)
2019: 97 homicides, a four year low
2020: 189 homicides, new all-time record (estimated population 596k, 31.7 homicides per 100k)
For the first six months in 2021, Minneapolis had even more homicides than the same time period in 2020.
1995: 92 homicides, the former all-time record (estimated population 191k, 48.2 homicides per 100k)
2019: 83 homicides
2020: 128, homicides new all-time record (estimated population 161k, 79.5 homicides per 100k)
During the first seven months of 2021, Jackson had even more homicides than the same time period in 2020.
1991: 139 homicides, the former all-time high (estimate population 641k, 21.7 per 100k)
2019: 106 homicides
2020: 175, the new record (estimate population 901k, 19.4 per 100k)
2021 (first six months) approximately 30.9 homicides per 100k if homicides continue at the same pace for the second half of the year.
During the first five months of 2021, Columbus experienced nearly double the number of homicides than the same time period in 2020. In July, there was a staggering 25 homicides just that month.
1990: 500 homicides, the all-time high 1586k, 31.5 homicides per 100k)
2020: 499 homicides (estimated population 1584k, 31.5 homicides per 100k)
2021 (first six months) approximately 41 homicides per 100k if homicides continue at the same pace for the second half of the year.
Philadelphia’s population is almost the same today as it was 30 years ago. The homicide rates in 2020 and 1990 are tied for the highest ever.. During the first six months of 2021, homicides were up 30% compared to the same time period in 2020. Philadelphia is currently experiencing its highest homicide rate in history for 2021 so far.
1993: 213, the former all-time record, (estimated population 870k, 24.6 homicide per 100k)
2020: 330, a new all-time record by a large margin (estimated population 1,156k, 28.5 homicides per 100k)
During the first 6.5 months of 2021, Memphis already had 140 homicides. More than the same period in 2020.
1992: 141, the former all-time record (estimated population 247k, 57 homicides per 100k)
2014: 63, lowest ever since Birmingham began keeping track
2020: 122, new all-time record the highest homicide rate (estimated population 209k, 58.4 homicides per 100k)
For the first five months of 2021, Birmingham had about the same amount of homicides as the same period in 2020.
2016: 117, the former all-time record
2020: 172, the new all-time record
Louisville, KY shattered all records for homicides in 2020 by a large margin. Louisville had 115 homicides during the first seven months of 2021. Almost as much as the former all-time record for the entire year of 2016.
1971: 81 homicides, the former all-time record (estimated population 453k, 17.8 homicides per 100k)
1995: 50 homicides, highest number in the 90s (estimated population 348k, 14.4 homicides per 100k)
2020: 94 homicides, the all-time record (estimated population 301k, 31.2 homicides per 100k)
In 2020, Cincinnati beat its all-time homicide record set in 1971, despite having a significantly smaller population. Cincinnati is also experiencing a homicide rate far higher than what the city experienced in the 90s. For the first six months of 2021, homicides in Cincinnati were down compared to the same time period in 2020, but still very high relative to the city’s history.
1993: 54 homicides, the former all-time record (estimated population, 465k people, 11.61 per 100k)
2020: 57 homicides, new all-time record (estimated population 659k people, 8.65 per 100k)*
Different sources list the number of 2020 homicides at different amounts between 54 and 57. The Portland Police Bureau has raised its official figure to 57.
During the first seven months of 2021, Portland already had at least 54 homicides. If homicides continue at the same pace, the 2021 homicide rate will be 15.2 per 100k. They are poised to shatter all homicide records by large margins.
St. Louis, MO:
1993: 267 homicides, all-time record (estimated population 382k, 69.9 homicides per 100k)
2019: 194 homicides
2020: 262 homicides, all-time record homicide rate (estimated population 308k, 85 homicides per 100k)
Note: St. Louis homicides are down in 2021 compared to 2020, but still rival the homicide rate of 1993.
St. Louis was one of the deadliest cities in the entire Western Hemisphere in 2020.
St. Paul, Minnesota is a city that is nearing all-time records for homicide.
1992: 32 homicides, former all-time record (estimated population 275k, 11.6 homicides per 100k)
2018: 17 homicide
2019: 30 homicides
2020: 34 homicides, new all-time record numerically (estimated population 308k, 11 homicides per 100k)
St. Paul is currently reporting that shootings in 2021 are up compared to 2020, but actual homicides are down because more people are surviving.
Click here for our analysis of 2020 homicides in St. Paul.
In 2020, the entire states of Washington and Minnesota set new records for the number of homicides, though the state had higher homicide rates in the 90s.