The U.S. murder rate is at its highest level in nearly two and half decades. There were 21,570 murders nationwide in 2020, up nearly 30% from the previous year -- the largest annual increase on record.

The rash of deadly violence came during a tumultuous year in American history. The COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures and left millions of Americans out of work. The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer rattled confidence in American law enforcement and sparked nationwide protests. Firearm sales soared, resulting in the proliferation of tens of millions of new guns.Here is a look at the states where gun sales are surging.

Some experts speculate that each of these factors likely played a role in the rising homicide rate. While it may be years before the precise causal factors are identified, the effects are being felt in communities across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists homicide as a contributing factor in the historic 1.5-year decline in life expectancy in the U.S. last year -- trailing only COVID-19 and accidental deaths, like drug overdoses, in significance.

Chicago, Illinois, is among the U.S. cities with the highest homicide rates. There were a total of 771 murders reported in the city in 2020, or 28.6 for every 100,000 people -- well above the national homicide rate of 6.5 murders per 100,000.

Even though homicide is the least common form of criminal violence -- accounting for less than 2% of all violent crimes -- places with high homicide rates also often have high overall violent crime rates, and Chicago is no exception. There were 987 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in Chicago in 2020, compared to 399 incidents per 100,000 nationwide.

All data used in this story is from the FBI's 2020 Uniform Crime Report. Only places with populations above 25,000 based on five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey were considered. Limited data was available in the 2020 UCR for areas in Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, though these places were not excluded from analysis.

 

RankCityMurders per 100,000 people, 2020Total murders, 2020Violent crimes per 100,000 people, 2020
1St. Louis, MO88.12632,016
2Petersburg, VA76.924632
3Pine Bluff, AR56.5231,832
4New Orleans, LA51.02011,324
5Saginaw, MI50.2242,154
6Detroit, MI49.73282,179
7Trenton, NJ48.2401,169
8Harrisburg, PA46.723857
9Baton Rouge, LA46.5102952
10Flint, MI46.4441,050
11Riviera Beach, FL44.7161,196
12Memphis, TN44.42892,352
13Wilmington, DE44.2311,591
14Cleveland, OH42.21601,657
15Alexandria, LA41.3191,848
16Monroe, LA40.3192,969
17Shreveport, LA37.269923
18Portsmouth, VA36.134920
19Kansas City, MO35.21761,586
20Dayton, OH32.8461,086
21Milwaukee, WI32.41911,597
22North Charleston, SC32.3381,145
23San Bernardino, CA31.4681,402
24Florence, SC31.1121,456
25Kankakee, IL30.98943
26Cincinnati, OH30.292893
27North Little Rock, AR30.2201,003
28Chicago, IL28.6771987
29Jacksonville, AR28.481,159
30Richmond, VA28.366349
31Washington, D.C.27.8198958
32South Bend, IN27.4281,728
33Danville, IL26.581,672
34Albany, GA26.5191,724
35Douglasville, GA26.29567
36Warren, OH26.010450
37Sumter, SC25.3101,242
38Hallandale Beach, FL24.910498
39Little Rock, AR24.8491,850
40Dania Beach, FL24.68624
41Indianapolis, IN24.3216871
42Rocky Mount, NC24.3131,149
43Hazelwood, MO24.06655
44Atlantic City, NJ24.09823
45Buffalo, NY24.0611,018
46Charleston, WV23.911921
47Akron, OH23.847910
48Rochester, NY23.448819
49Dover, DE23.49856
50Oakland, CA23.31021,291