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Homicide rates increased in 2020 while suicide rates dipped, data shows

The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics says the second-largest increase was after 9/11.

WASHINGTON — Public health data released this month reveals that 2020 marked the largest one-year increase in homicides nationally in over 100 years.

“We did see a 30% increase in homicides from 2019 to 2020, which is really staggering," Bob Anderson said.

Anderson serves as the Chief of Mortality Statistics for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). He said they calculate these statistics based on death certificates.

Anderson said 2020's homicide total is not the most homicides ever recorded -- that happened in 1974 -- just the largest one-year increase.

He said the second-largest one-year increase came after 9/11 -- a 20% increase -- because those deaths were recorded as homicides.

The year 2020, however, did not have a single event like the terrorist attack that caused thousands of deaths.

“Figuring out what caused this increase is a bit of a challenge," Anderson said. "The homicide rate was inching up overtime prior to this, but the fact that this occurred in conjunction with the pandemic means that the pandemic probably had an impact. But we can't say that for sure.”

RELATED: Domestic violence, homicides on the rise in Fairfax County amid pandemic

Many local jurisdictions have been seeing upticks since the pandemic hit.

In D.C., 2020 marked a 16-year-high for homicides. As of Thursday, 2021 homicides are up 9% from the same time last year, according to D.C. Police data.

In Virginia, Fairfax County has already surpassed its total homicides for 2020.

And, in Maryland, Prince George's County is on track to beat last year's total, based on the latest available police data.

“At this point, a lot more research is going to need to be done to sort out reasons exactly why this happened," Anderson said.

Not every county reports up-to-date homicide information or does so in the same way, which contributes to the challenge in collecting this data across the country.

Anderson said death investigations create a lag in data, so he expects the statistics to be finalized by mid-December.

He also shared another surprising statistic -- their data shows the suicide rate dipped in 2020, where many people expected to see an increase there as well.

Anderson said the NCHS will be releasing a report on suicides next month.

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