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According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel homicide tracker, the number of Milwaukee homicides in 2019 was 111. In 2020, the number rose to 204. 2021 saw 212 homicides, marking a 91% increase in the rate of homicides over two years. As of Oct. 21, the FBI reports there were 184 homicides in 2022 in Milwaukee — 24 more than last year at this time. 

However, this trend extends beyond Milwaukee. The U.S. homicide rate spiked by 30% between 2019 and 2020, marking the largest single-year increase in more than a century. Homicide rates climbed dramatically in big cities, while smaller cities across the nation saw some of their biggest increases in decades. Other types of violent crime also rose. 

Some experts contend the social and economic turmoil of the pandemic and high gun sales contributed to the increase, but the causes are not certain. Still, according to Pew, “the 2020 homicide rate … was 22% below the rate of 1991 … and far below the rates recorded in much of the 1970s and 1980s.”


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Homicide Database | Journal Sentinel

Urban Milwaukee: What’s Driving Milwaukee’s Homicide Rate

Wisconsin Public Radio: Milwaukee on pace to break homicide rate record again this year

The Intercept: What Drove the Historically Large Murder Spike in 2020?

Pew Research: What we know about the increase in U.S. murders in 2020

info   This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.

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Erin Gretzinger / Wisconsin WatchReporting Intern

Erin Gretzinger joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism and French major at UW-Madison and will graduate in spring 2023. Erin previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal as a reporting intern and served as the 2021-22 editor-in-chief at The Badger Herald. She is a recipient of the Jon Wolman Scholarship, the Sigrid Schultz Scholarship and the Joseph Sicherman Award Fund for her academic and reporting work.