FBI: Homicide, manslaughter cases increased 29.4% nationwide in 2020

Violent crime rose for the first time in four years

The number of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses across the country increased 29.4% in 2020, according to FBI data released Monday.

The findings show the estimated number of violent crimes increased from the previous year, something that has not happened in four years, the FBI said. Overall last year, violent crime including murder, manslaughter, rape, assault and robbery was up 5.6 percent from 2019.

In Atlanta, 2020 was the deadliest year in decades. The Atlanta Police Department investigated 157 homicide cases last year, up from 99 in 2019 and the most in more than two decades.

No corner of the city was spared. Kevin Humes, 35, was shot to death in May 2020 outside a Buckhead apartment complex. The following month Jalanni Pless, 18, was shot to death while selling water in Midtown and Andrew Scott Callahan, 37, was shot near the Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark. Kalecia “Pinky” Williams, 16, was shot in December at a downtown hotel.

“As a parent, it never crossed my mind to lose my child to gun violence, let alone a homicide,” Tomeka Pless, Jalanni’s mother, said Monday.

Jalanni was shot over $10, according to investigators. Recently, the woman who gave him the cash contacted Tomeka Pless. Jalanni had been respectful and was humbled before he was shot and killed by another teenager who allegedly claiming he was owed the cash, the woman told her.

“They don’t fight and let it go anymore,” Tomeka Pless said. “They fight and they come back and retaliate. It’s just too much.”

As of June, the Atlanta Police Department reported a nearly a 60% increase in homicide cases over 2020; the pace has since slowed. As of Monday, APD had worked 121 homicide cases in 2021. At this time last year, Atlanta police had worked 99 homicides, according to data from the department.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has often referred to the spikes as a “COVID crime wave.” She is not seeking reelection. Crime has emerged as a key topic among contenders.

The 2020 data shows the estimated rate of violent crime was 387.8 offenses per 100,000 people, the FBI said. The estimated rate of property crime was 1,958.2 offenses per 100,000 people, an 8.1% decline. It was the 18th consecutive year of decreases in such offenses.

Law enforcement agencies across metro Atlanta reported a sharp but temporary decrease in crime rates in early 2020, when coronavirus concerns spurred lockdowns and shuttered businesses, malls, restaurants, schools and government buildings. The lull didn’t last.

The national violent crime rate last year was 399 offenses per 100,000 people in the country, according to the data. In Georgia, the violent crime rate climbed from 325 per capita offenses, far below the national average, to 400, just above.

Data showed a marked increase in Georgia’s violent crime rate, outpacing the U.S. average, although more law enforcement agencies submitted information last year than in 2019. Of the 657 law enforcement agencies in the state, 399 submitted an expanded homicide report for 2020, the FBI said. For the 2019 report, 276 of 658 agencies did.

According to the GBI, the increase in reporting was partly a result of a change in the system for submitting the data. The GBI also reached out to Georgia departments to encourage and help them report.

Last week, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed that towns and cities across the state also are grappling with homicide spikes. Spalding County, for instance, saw nine killings in 2020, up from one the prior year.

“It’s a problem — big towns, little towns,” said LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton, who serves as president of the Georgia Municipal Association. “Obviously, Atlanta gets the headlines but it really is ubiquitous — it’s everywhere.”

- Data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this report.


2020: 576

2019: 477

2018: 605

2017: 666

2016: 652

Source: FBI crime data