FBI reports homicide increase in 2021, experts warn data is misleading
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FBI reports homicide increase in 2021, experts warn data is misleading

The FBI Wednesday released its 2021 annual crime report, estimating that murders reported in the US increased from 22,000 in 2020 to 22,900 in 2021, constituting a 4.3 percent increase. The overall violent crime volume decreased by 1 percent across the US from 1,326,600 incidents in 2020 to 1,313,200 incidents in 2021. The amount of drug-related offenses increased compared to 2020 in every category besides marijuana/hashish.

However, the data does not accurately represent the nation’s crime trends. Only 52 percent of US law enforcement agencies, representing only 65 percent of the US population, submited their full 2021 data before the March 2022 deadline. The low level of participation may be attributed to the FBI new data collection system. The new national incident-based reporting system (NIBRS) has required agencies to change how they report crime. This year, the report does not include data from New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Phoenix. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York, California, and Arizona have lower than average murder rates when compared to other US states. .

In an analysis of the data, policy experts Ames Grawert and Noah Kim of the Brennan Centre for Justice wrote, “[i]t will probably be impossible to speak of a precise ‘national’ murder rate or ‘national’ violent crime rate for 2021. Confidence intervals may make it difficult to determine whether the rates of some offenses rose or fell. Policymakers will have to exercise great care when using this limited data.”

Homicide reports from the CDC and the Council on Criminal Justice suggest that murder rates rose in 2021 but at a “much slower rate” than in 2020.