PERF Analysis Reveals a Spike in Some Violent Crimes This Year

During 2020, police agencies have confronted several simultaneous challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic fallout, and widespread and sometimes violent protests over the death of George Floyd and calls for police reform.

Now, data compiled by PERF (with support from the Major Cities Chiefs Association) confirm another major issue confronting the police: a sharp spike in some violent crimes.

Preliminary data from 223 police agencies across the United States reveal steep increases this year in homicides and aggravated assaults in many jurisdictions. But at the same time, there was a positive development, as reported rapes and robberies declined in most areas.

The rise in homicides and aggravated assaults was not restricted to big cities. PERF also found increases in some medium-sized jurisdictions.

Over the next several days, PERF’s Daily Reports will focus on what’s happening with violent crime in the United States.

Today’s report summarizes the violent crime data reported by the 223 agencies for which PERF has current data.

On subsequent days, we will delve deeper into these findings by interviewing police chiefs, sheriffs, and other personnel on the causes of the increases (and, in some cases, the decreases) in violent crime in their communities, and what they are doing about it.

How the Data Were Compiled

Earlier this month, the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) released a report on violent crime data from 67 of its member agencies in the United States and 9 agencies in Canada. For each jurisdiction, the MCCA collected preliminary violent crime numbers for the first 9 months of  2020, and compared those totals with the same time period of 2019.

The MCCA report revealed a sharp increase in homicides and a substantial rise in aggravated assaults among the largest cities in both countries. It also found an overall drop in the number of reported rapes and robberies.

In fact, 84% of the major American cities in the MCCA report had an increase in homicides in 2020, and 77% of the cities reported an increase in aggravated assaults.

To explore whether these findings are occurring in jurisdictions of other sizes across the United States, PERF asked our members to provide data in the same format as collected by the MCCA: preliminary reports of homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults Jan. 1-Sept. 30, 2020, and for comparison, actual data for the same period of 2019.  (Because they are preliminary, the 2020 numbers are subject to change.)

A total of 156 additional agencies provided data to PERF. Thus, when combined with the 67 U.S. agencies in the MCCA report, the analysis in this Daily Report is based on data from 223 agencies of various sizes.

The breakdown of agencies by size is as follows:

  • 67 “Major City” agencies (data collected by MCCA)
  • 44 additional large PERF agencies with 250 or more officers
  • 78 medium-size PERF agencies with 50-249 officers
  • 34 smaller PERF agencies with fewer than 50 officers

While these 223 departments do not constitute a statistically representative sample of all U.S. law enforcement agencies, they do reflect a cross-section of agencies of varying sizes and geographic locations.



The 223 agencies in PERF’s analysis reported a total of 7,158 homicides from January through September of 2020. That represents an increase of 28% over the 5,583 homicides those agencies reported during the first nine months of 2019.

Overall, 58% of the agencies reported increases in homicides during the first nine months of 2020, 20% reported decreases, and 22% (mostly small and medium-sized agencies) reported no change.

Homicide increases were especially pronounced among the largest cities. Fifty-six of the 67 major cities recorded a rise in homicides between 2019 and 2020. Only 10 of these agencies reported a decrease, and in one agency there was no change.

MCCA Major Cities:  Several major cities reported homicide increases of greater than 50%, including:

  • Milwaukee – an 110% increase
  • Minneapolis -- 85% increase
  • Louisville Metro -- 79% increase
  • Portland, OR -- 68% increase
  • Fort Worth -- 66% increase
  • Memphis -- 58% increase
  • Prince George’s County, MD -- 58% increase
  • Boston -- 52% increase
  • Chicago -- 51% increase.

Reductions in homicides were reported by El Paso (-66%), Baltimore County, MD (-27%), Oklahoma City (-21%), and Newark, NJ (-20%) .

The rise in homicides was not restricted to major cities. Other large agencies, as well as some medium-sized ones, reported increases as well.

Other large agencies:  Among the other large agencies that reported homicide data to PERF, 70% had an increase, 21% had a decrease, and there was no change in 9% of agencies.

Agencies that reported increases in homicides included:

  • Topeka, KS -- From 9 homicides in the first 9 months of 2019 to 21 homicides in the same period of 2020
  • Kansas City, KS – from 23 to 40
  • Baton Rouge, LA – from 38 to 70
  • Colorado Springs, CO --  from 17 to 26
  • Madison, WI – from 2 to 10.

Medium-size agencies:  Among medium-sized departments, 44% reported an increase in homicides, 26% had a decrease, and 31% had no change.

  • In Cedar Rapids, IA, homicides increased from 4 in 2019 to 10 in 2020.
  • In Maple Grove, MN, homicides increased from 2 to 8.
  • In Yakima, WA, homicides increased from 5 to 8.
  • In each of three cities -- Indio, CA; Redlands, CA; and Waterloo, IA -- homicides increased from 1 to 5.

Small agencies:  While most small agencies did not report any homicides in either year, among those that did, 8 had an increase in 2020 and 6 had a decline. Twenty agencies reported no change.



Like homicides, aggravated assaults generally increased, though at a lower rate, during the first nine months of 2020 among the 223 agencies. Combined, these agencies reported 250,067 aggravated assaults between January 1 and September 30, 2020. That represents a 9% increase from the 228,843 offenses reported during the first nine months of 2019.

Two-thirds of all agencies in this study reported a rise in aggravated assaults.

The aggravated assault category includes attacks with a range of weapons, and it is impossible to determine from the data how many of these crimes involve firearms. Anecdotally, however, several police leaders have reported a sharp rise in non-fatal shootings this year, which tracks with the uptick in homicides, the majority of which are committed with a firearm.

Major Cities:  Among the 67 major cities, 77% reported an increase in aggravated assaults and 23% reported a decline. (One major city agency did not report aggravated assault data.)

Major city agencies reporting sharp rises in aggravated assaults included:

  • DeKalb County, GA  -- a 72% increase
  • Fort Worth, TX -- 39% increase
  • Aurora, CO -- 36% increase
  • Louisville Metro -- 36% increase
  • Tampa --  35% increase.

Other large agencies:  Among other large agencies, 68% had more aggravated assaults in 2020 than in 2019, while 30% had fewer, and one agency was unchanged.

Kansas City, KS (75%), Toledo, OH (55%), and Scottsdale, AZ (53%) were among the agencies experiencing a sharp rise in aggravated assaults. 

Medium-size agencies:  64% of medium-sized agencies saw a rise in aggravated assaults; and 36% had a decline.

Small agencies:  Small agencies bucked the overall trend. 52% reported fewer aggravated assaults, 36% had more, and 12% reported no change.



Reported rapes declined by 15% among the agencies that PERF analyzed. The agencies reported a total of 27,273 rapes during the first nine months of 2020, compared with 32,234 during the same period of 2019.

However, because rape is traditionally one of the most underreported crimes, it is difficult to know whether the COVID pandemic may have further suppressed rape reports, especially among victims who are attacked in their homes by intimate partners or other people they know.

Reported rapes declined in nearly 70% of the agencies surveyed:

  • Among major cities, 86% reported fewer rapes in 2020 and 14% reported an increase.
  • Among other large cities, 70% reported a decline, while 30% reported an increase.
  • Among medium-sized agencies, 62% reported a drop in reported rapes, 32% saw an increase, and in 5% of the agencies, the numbers were unchanged.
  • In small agencies, 48% saw a decline, 30% had an increase, and 21% had no change.



Robberies also declined overall, with more than 6 in 10 agencies reporting a decrease. Agencies recorded a combined total of 94,597 robberies from January through September 2020. That represents an 11% decline from the 106,178 robberies reported during the first nine months of 2019.

With the exception of small agencies, reductions in robberies occurred in agencies of all sizes:

  • Among the major cities, 73% reported decreases and 27% had increases. Twenty of the major city agencies reported reductions of 20% or more in robberies.
  • The same percentages were recorded among other large agencies: 73% experienced a decrease, while 27% had an increase. Ten of these agencies had declines of 20% or more in robberies.
  • Among medium-sized agencies, 58% reported fewer robberies, while 39% reported an increase. The numbers were unchanged in two agencies.
  • Among small agencies, 35% reported an increase in robberies, while 32% reported a decrease, and 32% reported no change.


Tomorrow:   A look at violent crime trends in major cities, factors driving the changes, and how some agencies are responding


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.