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WASHINGTON – Homicides in the United States in 2020 are up nearly 30% from the previous year, the biggest jump in a year since the FBI began keeping records, according to figures released Monday by the agency.

Homicides and non-negligent manslaughter increased about 29.4% to 21,570, an increase of 4,901 from 2019, according to FBI data. This is the highest estimated total since the early 1990s, when homicides remained above 23,000 per year as drug wars unfolded in many places in the United States.

Violent crime in 2020 increased 5.6% more moderately from the previous year, while property crime continued its nearly two-decade decline, dropping 7.8%. Thefts and rapes fell by 9.3% and 12% respectively.

James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston, said he sees 2020 as a “one-off” situation and not part of any sort of long-term trend. He attributed the dramatic rise to a confluence of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, political and racial conflict and people generally having too much free time.

“I don’t want to minimize what happened. I just don’t want people to believe that the sky is falling and that this is a permanent trend,” Fox added. Even with the huge increase in homicides, he noted, the number is still far below what the country endured during the crack epidemic 30 years ago.

While declines in other crime categories are positive news, homicides were the startling trend – a trend that has continued this year. A number of communities, both rural and metropolitan, have experienced a continuing increase in homicides. Rising violence became a political battleground in the year following the outbreak of anti-policing protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Several law enforcement candidates are running or considering running for various offices across the country.

Gun control groups noted that guns were the main driver of the violence.

“This increase in murders is just the latest evidence that we are living an epidemic of gun violence as part of the COVID pandemic,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “This death spiral will continue until we stop the flow of illegal weapons and invest in proven response programs.”

The Uniform Crime Report program is administered by the FBI and collects data annually from law enforcement agencies in a number of categories, including violent crime, rape, robbery, and assault. serious as well as property crimes. Data is estimated because not all agencies submit information. The FBI said about 85% of the 18,619 eligible law enforcement agencies submitted data in 2020. As a result, the FBI cautions against using its report to rank cities.

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