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U.S. murder rate stayed flat in 2021 after soaring in 2020, FBI report says

The FBI says that its estimates show a 1% decline in violent crime, with murder slightly up and robbery down, but that the changes are not "statistically significant."

The national murder rate remained flat in 2021, after skyrocketing 29.4% as the pandemic raged the year before, according to a new FBI report on crime statistics that could figure prominently in the political conversation as midterm elections approach.

Overall, the FBI estimates that violent crime decreased 1% nationally, from 1,326,600 incidents in 2020 to 1,313,200 in 2021, the report released Wednesday said.

FBI officials expressed confidence in the general accuracy of their estimates, but the numbers come with a major caveat. The 2021 crime data relies on estimates to a greater degree than ever before, because the FBI changed its crime data collection system and many major police jurisdictions — including New York and Los Angeles — are not yet participating. 

Thus, while the report estimates that murder increased 4.3 percent as robbery decreased by 8.9 percent, FBI officials cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the fluctuations. In other words, they say, crime rates stayed about the same.

“It is important to note that these estimated trends are not considered statistically significant,” the FBI said in a news release. “The nonsignificant nature of the observed trends is why, despite these described changes, the overall message is that crime remained consistent.”

Though that suggests the huge spike in murders during the pandemic has now flatlined, the murder rate is still much higher than before the pandemic. Other surveys have found that property crime has been on the rise in the past year as the rate of inflation has risen.

This data comes on the same day a Politico/Morning Consult poll found that more than three-quarters of voters said violent crime is a major problem in the U.S.

However, a September NBC News poll found that crime ranked seventh among voters’ top concerns, trumped by issues relating to the economy, immigration and abortion.