US crime: Is America seeing a surge in violence?

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President Joe Biden is launching a renewed effort to tackle crime in the US, as a series of major cities experience spikes in violent offences.

We've taken a look at the violent crime trends across the US.

Is violent crime going up?

Police departments across the US define violent crime in slightly different ways, but the data usually includes murder, robbery, assault and rape.

Overall, violent crime was up by about 3% in 2020 over the previous year, but this should be seen in the context of the longer term downward trend from a peak in the early 1990s.

Across the US, there were 25% more murders recorded in 2020 than the previous year.

This is a steep rise, but the murder rate is still far lower than than in the early 1990s, when it was almost double the current figure.

Which cities are seeing a spike in murders?

Major US cities have tended to follow the national trend in becoming safer since the 1990s, but some have also seen a sharp rise in murders recently.

These spikes in some of the biggest US cities have been of considerable concern to President Biden's administration.

The New York Times looked at 37 cities across the US with data for the first three months of this year, and overall there has been an an 18% increase in murders compared with the same time period in 2020.

Chicago has one of the worst records for murders, with a big increase in 2020 and a continuing upwards trend so far in 2021.

Shooting incidents in Chicago are also up 15% on the same point last year, and are more than double the level they were at two years ago.

A rise in the number of shootings has been seen in many other major US cities as well, with President Biden attempting to strengthen firearm regulations to combat gun violence.

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New York has also seen shooting incidents and murders rise, continuing an upward trend which began in 2020.

Through to the middle of June, there have been almost 200 murders in New York so far this year – more than a 13% increase on the same period two years ago.

And shooting incidents have more than doubled from the same period in 2019.

  • America's gun culture in charts

Despite the recent spike in murders, both New York and Chicago, along with most other US cities, have seen overall violent crime drop significantly over the last 20 years.

Over the last 15 months, coronavirus restrictions have put unprecedented social and economic pressures on people.

There was also an increase in gun sales during the pandemic, which may have contributed to rising gun violence.

The Biden administration hopes strong action now can stem the violence and prevent murders increasing further this summer.

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