September 22, 2021

Violent Crime Trends: Homicides, Shootings, and Carjackings Are Increasing in 2021; Robberies Continue to Decline


In November 2020, PERF released a Daily Critical Issues report about how the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest impacted crime rates among PERF member agencies. At that time, most of the police departments and sheriffs’ offices that PERF surveyed were seeing a sharp increase in homicides and aggravated assaults, but decreases in rapes and robberies.

In the summer of 2021, some PERF members were telling us they were continuing to see these patterns in crime rates.

To update our information about these changes in violent crime, in August 2021 PERF asked our members to share data on homicides, aggravated assaults, shootings, robberies and carjackings in their jurisdictions between January 1 and July 31, 2021, and to provide comparable data for the same seven months of 2020.

PERF’s latest survey reveals that homicides, shootings, and carjackings increased in the first seven months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.

PERF received information from 157 agencies of varying sizes. Twenty-nine percent of the responding agencies were large departments with 500 or more officers. Respondents represented 34 states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces.

Key Findings

1. Many agencies reported a continued increase in homicides from 2020 to 2021. Fortunately, these increases were generally smaller than what agencies experienced between 2019 and 2020.

Among responding agencies in PERF’s earlier survey,  the total number of homicides increased 28% in the first nine months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. In PERF’s new survey, the responding agencies reported a total number of homicides that was only 12% greater in the first seven months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.

2. PERF also requested information on shootings and carjackings in the current survey. (We did not ask for data in these categories in our earlier survey.)

Overall, there was a 16% increase in reported shootings from January-July 2020 to the same period in 2021.

There was also a 16% increase in carjackings from January-July 2020 to January-July 2021, as reported by PERF’s responding agencies.  Carjackings continue to be a big-city problem. These offenses increased by 17% in the largest agencies (those with 500+ officers); smaller agencies generally saw decreases in carjackings.

3. Smaller agencies (fewer than 50 sworn) saw an 11% increase in aggravated assaults, a bigger increase than seen in other agencies.

4. Robberies continued to decrease, though not as substantially as they did last year. These offenses decreased 11% in PERF’s 2019-2020 survey, and decreased 8% in our 2020-21 survey.

Overall Patterns

Similar to the findings from the November 2020 survey, there was an increase in the total number of homicides and aggravated assaults in 2021, and a decrease in the number of robberies reported by the responding agencies. However, as seen in the table below, the respective increases and decreases were not as large as those seen last year. This might indicate that changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as sharp reductions in court trials, are potentially starting to return to earlier, pre-pandemic patterns.


The 157 agencies that responded to PERF’s most recent request for information reported a total of 3,335 homicides from January 1 to July 31, 2021, an increase of 12% over the 2,979 reported in January-July 2020.

Comparatively, in response to PERF’s November 2020 information request, 223 agencies reported 7,158 homicides from January through September 2020 and 5,583 homicides from January through September in 2019 – an increase of 28%.

Most agencies did not experience large fluctuations in homicides within their jurisdictions between 2020 and 2021. In fact, in reporting homicides, 33% of the respondents reported the exact same number of homicides in 2020 and 2021 (including many small agencies that reported 0 or 1 homicide).  37% reported an increase in homicides, and 30% reported a decrease.

There were, however, exceptions:

  • Fresno, CA saw an increase in homicides from 22 to 45.
  • Mesa, AZ saw an increase from 8 to 19.
  • St. Petersburg, FL saw an increase from 10 to 22.

Agencies experiencing decreases in homicides included:

  • Cedar Rapids, IA went from 10 homicides to 4.
  • Richland, WA went from 5 to 0.
  • Volusia County, FL went from 9 to 4.

Aggravated Assaults

Aggravated assaults also increased slightly from 2020 to 2021 among the 157 agencies that responded to PERF’s request for information. These agencies reported a total of 110,404 aggravated assaults between January-July 2021, compared to the 105,063 reported between January-July 2020 (a 5% increase).

In PERF’s earlier survey in 2020, 223 agencies reported 250,067 aggravated assaults in the first nine months of 2020, a 9% increase over the 228,843 aggravated assaults reported for those nine months in 2019.

Smaller agencies (fewer than 50 sworn personnel) had to contend with higher percentage increases in aggravated assaults than larger agencies, though the numerical increases were relatively small.

For example, between January- July 2020 and January-July 2021:

  • Berlin, WI  saw an increase from 1 aggravated assault in 2020 to 5 in 2021.
  • Clemson City, SC saw an increase from 9 to 15.
  • Vail, CO had an increase from 12 to 23.


Shootings increased by of 16% between January-July 2020 (25,793) and January-July 2021 (29,797), with smaller agencies seeing a larger percent increase.  The smaller agencies still had relatively few shootings (the 23 agencies that reported data had 52 total shootings in the first 7 months of 2021). Some cities had especially large increases in shootings. For example between January-July 2020 and January-July 2021:

  • Portland, OR (500+ officers) reported an increase from 392 to 752 shootings.
  • Tampa, FL (500+ officers) experienced an increase from 75 to 150 shootings.
  • Thomasville, GA (50-249 officers) saw an increase from 3 to 13 shootings.



Reported robberies continued to decline in 2021, but at a slower pace than in 2020. Among the 157 responding agencies, robberies decreased 8%, from the 46,544 reported between January-July 2020 to 42,763 in the same time period of 2021.

In PERF’s previous survey in 2020, 223 agencies reported a decrease in robberies of 11%.

Many individual agencies reported sharp decreases in robberies. For example:

  • Fort Smith, AR (50-249 officers) saw a decrease in robberies from 66 to 37.
  • Seminole County, FL (250-499 officers) saw a decrease from 32 to 11.
  • Yonkers, NY (500+ officers) saw a decrease from 268 to 81.

Smaller agencies (0-49 officers) saw little change in their robbery numbers.



The 157 agencies that responded to PERF’s request for information in 2021 reported 7,288 carjackings between January-July 2021, an increase of 16% over the 6,281 they reported between January-July 2020.

Larger agencies (500+ officers) saw an increase of 17% in the number of carjackings, while smaller agencies saw decreases. PERF discussed the increases in carjackings among larger agencies in a February 2021 Daily Critical Issues report. Overall, cities reported that most of the carjackings were committed by a small number of suspects who tended to be young and choosing targets based on opportunity.

Several agencies continued to report an increase in carjackings in January-July 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. For example:

  • Long Beach, CA (500+ officers)  went from 15 carjackings to 36.
  • Montgomery County, MD (500+ officers) went from 15 to 37.
  • Portland, OR (500+ officers) went from 28 to 70.