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City Dashboard: Murder and Gun Homicide

8.4.2021

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Summary

In the midst of one public health epidemic, COVID-19, 2020 was also one of the deadliest years on record for another public health crisis—gun violence. The United States saw a 28 percent increase over 2019 in gun homicides. This upward trend has continued—but slowed—through the first half of 2021, with a 14 percent increase in gun homicides relative to the first half of 2020.

Due to limited funding and inconsistent data collection, data on city gun violence is too often old, incomplete, and conflicting from one federal agency to another. Below is the most recent, available, reliable data on murders (firearm and non-firearm) from 2015 to the first quarter of 2021 and on gun homicides from 2015 to 2019 in nearly 500 cities.

Key Findings

  1. Early analysis of FBI and police department data reveals that in the first half of 2021, murders increased 8 percent in large cities (250,000+ population) compared to the same period last year.
  2. 2020 was a deadly year for cities. In medium to large cities (100,000+ population), the murder rate increased by 36 percent. 
  3. The six cities where the murder rate at least doubled in 2020 compared to 2019 were Lubbock, TX; Des Moines, IA; Fresno, CA; Vallejo, CA; Rockford, IL; and South Bend, IN.
  4. The six cities that experienced the greatest declines in the murder rate from 2019 to 2020 were Virginia Beach, VA; El Paso, TX; High Point, NC; Salt Lake City, UT; Oklahoma City, OK; and Albuquerque, NM.
Everytown analysis of 2015–2019 FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (accessed December 2020) and 2020 and 2021 Quarterly Uniform Crime Reports (accessed September 2021).

Compare Murder and Gun Homicide Across Cities

Everytown analysis of 2018–2019 FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (accessed December 2020) and 2020 Quarterly Uniform Crime Report (accessed March 2021).

Data Tables: Murder and Gun Homicide

Everytown analysis of 2018–2019 FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (accessed December 2020) and 2020 Quarterly Uniform Crime Report (accessed March 2021).

Methodology

Gun homicide data is featured in this dashboard for cities that reported annual data to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and had populations of at least 65,000. Murder data is featured for cities that reported quarterly data to the FBI via the Summary Reporting System or the National Incident-Based Reporting System and had a population of at least 100,000. Because FBI crime reporting is optional, Everytown attempted to fill gaps due to unreporting by pulling annual data—where available—from state and city police departments, prioritizing: (a) firearm homicide data in Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina; and (b) murder data in cities with populations 500,000 and above. As of June, only about 40 percent of US police departments reported Quarter 1 or Quarter 2 2021 data to the FBI. To fill this gap the Q1 and Q2 finding described above also incorporated police department data, as collected through American Violence.

The FBI defines gun homicides as “murders, non-negligent manslaughters, killings of felons by law enforcement officers or private citizens, and negligent manslaughters.” This data is released by the FBI annually; however, a more up-to-date proxy can be found in the FBI’s quarterly releases of non-gun specific murder data, given the significant overlap between these two measures. Murders are defined by the FBI as the “willful killing of one individual by another.” Typically, gun homicide and murder counts are very similar, because while one includes more crimes, the other includes more weapons; however, murders may surpass gun homicides on occasion, particularly when the proportion of assault-related killings that involve guns (as opposed to weapons like knives, fists, and blunt objections) are relatively low in a given city.

Across the country, city definitions and geographic boundaries lack clarity and are often conflated with counties, metropolitan statistical areas, and more localized communities within them. This dashboard uses Census places to both define city boundaries and populations and allocate law enforcement agencies. For county-level data, please see EveryStat.

Rates and percent changes are only calculated for cities with murder or firearm homicide counts of 10 people and above. Averages are calculated based on the selected and displayed cities. Victim characteristic graphics are calculated using SHR five year totals, and due to rounding, graphs may not add to 100 percent.

Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.

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