On Monday, September 27th, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its Uniform Crime Report (UCR) for 2020 via the agency’s Crime Data Explorer. The UCR Program collects information on the crimes reported by participating city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies. These crimes include violent crimes such as murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, as well as the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The program also collects arrest data for the aforementioned offenses, as well as 20 offenses that include other types of crimes, except for traffic violations. In a statement, the FBI announced that for the first time in four years, the estimated number of violent crimes increased when compared to the previous year’s data. Homicides, for example, increased nearly 30 percent from 2019 and violent crimes increased by 5.6 percent. According to CNN, this is the largest single-year increase that the FBI has recorded since it first started tracking these types of crimes in the 1960s. What could account for the increase in homicides? According to CNN, the increase in homicides and violent crime is the result of increasing gun violence. The Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization that provides free online public access to accurate information about gun-related violence in the United States, reported that there were 15,457 homicides/murder/unintentional deaths in 2019 compared to the 19,436 in 2020, which is a 25.7 percent increase. According to the UCR, in 2020 77% of the homicides that were reported by the participating agencies were committed with a handgun, firearm, rifle, or shotgun. Others argue that the increase in these crimes is likely a combination of the spike in gun sales and the social and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data provided by the report, however, is not comprehensive, as agencies are not required to participate. In 2020, for example, only 15,897 of 18,619 eligible agencies submitted data. Some large cities, like New York, Chicago, and New Orleans, did not participate, but others such as Memphis, Milwaukee, and Des Moines set records.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain the factors that likely contributed to the increase in homicide and violent crime rates in the United States in 2020.
- Debate: According to NBC News’ Pete Williams, the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in the increase in homicides. Do you believe that the social and economic toll that the pandemic had on Americans contributed to the increase in homicides across the United States?
- Poll: The FBI should require that all law enforcement agencies in the United States submit data to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Program. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss why the crime data provided by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report is not considered comprehensive.
Cover image: istock.com/400tmax