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Fact Check Team: Understanding 2021's high crime rates
As the nation rounds out the first week of the New Year, The National Desk’s Fact Check Team is looking back at the crime data from the year and what may come in 2022. (TND)

WASHINGTON (TND) — It was well noted that throughout 2021, crime was on the rise across the country.

Murder rates continued to increase this past year and looking back at 2021, initial reports show major cities challenged by new records.

As the nation rounds out the first week of the New Year, The National Desk’s Fact Check Team is looking back at the crime data from the year and what may come in 2022.

As the nation rounds out the first week of the New Year, The National Desk’s Fact Check Team is looking back at the crime data from the year and what may come in 2022. (TND)

What the team found behind the headlines is a rise in murder in major cities across America and some common themes between them.

Twelve cities made the list — all of them having homicide numbers that surpassed a deadly record.

All of the cities have broken their all-time record for homicides in a single year. There are some outliers, such as Philadelphia with 524 murders or 342 in Memphis, both of which are major metro areas. In half of these cities, it’s a continued trend.

But in cities like Portland or Austin, violence has broken records from back times of the highest murder rates across the nation — 1988 to 1994.

One of the similarities between these cities is that each one has a Democratic mayor. Milwaukee is holding a special mayoral election in April and it will be interesting to see if crime reduction will be a big topic of campaigns.

Criminologists are hesitant to draw overarching conclusions for the spike, but reports from The National Commission on COVID-19 and criminal justice point to a few possible factors.

Those aspects include things like the stress the pandemic places on vulnerable individuals, the strain on safety and healthcare resources and an increase in gun purchases.

A report from The Council on Criminal Justice highlights the 2020 mass protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, although the connection between the social unrest and the increase in homicides remains uncertain.

Minneapolis did tie its previous record number of homicides, with 97 in the years 1997 and 2021.

There is also the question of whether there is a connection of rising crime in cities that chose to reduce police funding.

As the nation rounds out the first week of the New Year, The National Desk’s Fact Check Team is looking back at the crime data from the year and what may come in 2022. (TND)

In Portland, the city council cut $15 million from the police budget and eliminated 84 sworn positions in 2020. As a response to a historic murder rate, their new budget partially restores $5 million of what was cut. Officials say the additional funds will be used to hire more officers and body cameras.

Minneapolis shifted $8 million away from the police force for 2021 and had a budget of $164 million. In that city, there has also been a rise in crime. The 2022 budget is $192 million.

In Baton Rouge, the police department has a $95 million budget — a 2% increase over last year’s. Millions of dollars will be used to recruit more officers.

Studies show that there is no direct correlation between police funding and the amount of crime. There are a lot of factors that play a part here but it does seem like these departments are beefing up resources in response to the crime rates they are experiencing.

Looking at these major cities, murder is just one aspect of the city’s crime rate.

Using the FBI's crime database, there were also trends in property crime that could be noted.

Overall, more than half of the cities on the list had a downward trend for property crime, with some of those cities continually coming down since the early '90s.

The other cities on the list were near normal levels of property crime, most of them slightly lower in recent years.

Out of all the major cities, only Tucson, Arizona and Milwaukee, Wisconsin had any upward trends at all.

And many of these cities — while they are breaking records — aren’t the highest per capita. Austin, for example, actually has 20 to 30 fewer homicides this past year than other cities of similar size in Texas in 2020.

Bottom line — even though these cities are breaking their homicide records, not all of them are dangerous places to be.

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