There were 259 more murders in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020, and 548 more compared to the first half of 2019 in 29 major U.S. cities, according to a Thursday update to the Council on Criminal Justice's (CCJ) pandemic crime report.
The study's updated findings by CCJ, a nonpartisan criminal justice policy organization, indicate an upward trend in violent crime that began in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, though CCJ notes that increases in murders slowed between the first and second quarters of this year.
"The authors’ conclusions have not changed" since CCJ published its initial report in July of 2020, the latest update reads. "As the pandemic subsides, long-lasting reductions in violence and crime will require pursuing evidence-based crime-control strategies and enacting long-needed reforms to policing."
Cities included in the latest update range from Norfolk, Va., with a population of 245,000 residents, to Los Angeles, with a population of nearly 4 million residents. Houston; New York City; Omaha, Neb.; Portland, Ore.; San Diego and San Jose, Calif., were not included in the update due to a lack of data, according to CCJ.
In May and June of 2020, after the first few months of U.S. COVID-19-related lockdowns, CCJ recorded a 37% spike in homicides in 27 major U.S. cities led by Chicago, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, according to the council's first pandemic crime report.
The unfortunate trend appeared in smaller locales in 2020, too. The FBI's Preliminary Uniform Crime Report released in September of 2020 found a nearly 15% increase in murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses across the country based on information from more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies, rather than just those in major cities.
"A precipitous rise in homicide in the late spring of 2020 coincided with the emergence of mass protests after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, although the connection, if any, between the social unrest and heightened violence remains uncertain," researchers wrote in the report's conclusion.
Despite these higher murder rates, CCJ's latest report update points out that homicides are still well below 1990s levels at 15 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2021 compared to 28 murders per 100,000 residents in 1993.
Other types of violent crime continued to increase in major cities in 2021 compared to the same time period in 2020, as well, including aggravated assault (up 9%), gun assault (up 5%) and domestic violence (up 2%). Vehicle theft increased 21%.
Meanwhile, robbery, burglary, larceny and drug offenses have all decreased in 2021 compared to 2020.
Researchers concluded that the continued spike in violent crime "requires an urgent response from city leaders" and that "anti-crime efforts should occur in tandem with long-term reforms to increase accountability for police misconduct and to redirect certain police functions, such as addressing the day-to-day problems of the homeless and responding to drug overdoses…"
In addition to violent crime against civilians, the National Fraternal Order of Police found earlier this month that ambush-style attacks on law enforcement were up 91% year to date compared to 2020.
President Biden is offering $350 billion from the American Rescue Plan to police departments in large U.S. cities to "put more police officers on the beat" as part of his new comprehensive strategy on gun violence, effectively filling budget holes created as the "defund the police" movement reverberated across the country last year.
Fox News' Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.