New FBI Figures Show Portland Is Way Above Average in Its Increased Rate of Homicides

Those deaths are part of a national trend—and are also surpassing it.

Shooting - Northeast Portland Spent casing in Northeast Portland, July 2. (Justin Yau)

All through the rainy weekend, a pile of flowers grew outside Silver Dollar Pizza. Mourners left bouquets on the Northwest Glisan Street sidewalk, along the plywood covering the glass that shattered when a gunman fired into the bar, killing 34-year-old Jacob Knight-Vasquez.

It was the latest of 66 homicides Portland has already witnessed in 2021. Those deaths are part of a national trend—and are also surpassing it.

On Sept. 17, the FBI released its 2020 crime statistics report. One of the most closely watched numbers in the report is the homicide rate. Last year, homicides surged compared to recent years.

The United States saw about 21,500 homicides in 2020, 4,901 more than 2019. It’s the largest jump in homicides since the FBI started recording national data in 1960.

The new numbers represent a 30% increase nationally. But Portland showed a far greater increase. In 2019, there were 29 homicides and 53 in 2020, an 83% increase.

Although Portlanders have pondered whether a reduction in police and the elimination of the Gun Violence Reduction Team played a role in the rise in murders, the trend is up nearly everywhere (see chart below).

One bright spot: Robberies declined nationally (by 9.3%) while Portland robberies declined 17.8%.

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