73% of Murders Occur in 5% of Counties, 52% of Counties Had 0%


Murders in the U.S. are becoming increasingly concentrated in urban centers with large populations. It’s only in a handful of counties in those areas, according to a newly released report.

Most murders are increasing in densely populated urban centers in a handful of counties. This is based on John Lott Jr.’s Center for Crime Prevention Research Center report. Data was compiled through the FBI’s 2020 Supplementary Homicide Report and open crime data reports where the state’s homicide report was not available.

“The one percent of worst counties drove that increase. The share of murders in these worst counties rose over this period, but there was no change in these counties’ populations.” . . .

Some 73% of all murders in the U.S. took place in just 5% of counties, while 52% of all counties reported no murders at all, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center study.


The increase in murders began in 2020 and continues in some areas of the country. Murders spiked when life was upended with lockdowns and the George Floyd riots that went on for months.

Murders increased by nearly 30% in 2020 compared to the prior year, marking the largest single-year increase in killings since the FBI began tracking such crimes.

“Murder isn’t a nationwide problem,” the study found. “It’s a problem in a small set of urban areas, and even in those counties, murders are concentrated in small areas inside them, and any solution must reduce those murders.”

  • 52% of counties with no reported murders covered 10% of the population.
  • 68% of counties did not exceed one murder in 2020, which accounts for 2.6% of all murders in 2020.
  • Most murders took place in the “worst” 5% of counties that year.
  • 1% — only 31 counties — recorded 42% of the murders in 2020. That area is where 21% of the entire U.S. population lives.
  • The worst 2% of counties (62 counties) contain 31% of the population and 56% of the murders.
  • The worst 5% of counties contain 47% of the population and account for 73% of murders.

But even within those counties, the murders are very heavily concentrated in small areas,” the report stated.


Illinois’ Cook County, home to Chicago and about 40% of the state’s population had the most amount of recorded murders of any location in 2020, with a whopping 775, according to the report.

Cook County was followed by:
  • Los Angeles County, 691 murders
  • Harris County, Texas, 537 murders
  • Philadelphia County, 495 murders
  • New York City’s five counties, a combined 465 murders
  • Wayne County, Michigan, 379 murders
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, 311 murders
  • Maricopa County, Arizona, 299 murders
  • Baltimore City county, 291 murders
  • Dallas County, 281 murders
  • Marion County, Indiana, 234 murders

The study found that within the counties themselves, murders and other violent crimes are also concentrated in certain areas, and the study pointed to Los Angeles County zip codes as examples.

In L.A. County, the worst 10% of zip codes reported 41% of the murders, the worst 20% of zip codes accounted for 67% of the murders, and the worst 30% at 82% of murders.

“Between 2010 and 2014, the percentage of murders in the worst 5% of the counties fell from 71% to 69%,” the report found.

“But between 2014 and 2020…“The one percent of worst counties drove that increase. The share of murders in these worst counties rose over this period, but there was no change in these counties’ populations.”

Criminologists have long identified higher crime rates in urban areas, but they say the matter is more complicated than mere population.

Some analysts point to blighted neighborhoods, high levels of truancy,, and other measures of social disunity as factors. Others point to lower arrest rates.


“Murders are a problem in a very small percentage of the counties in the United States,” Mr. Lott told The Washington Times.

Even in those higher-homicide counties, the crime is still concentrated, he said.

“It’s primarily in those heavily populated urban areas where you’re having the most lax approaches to crime on average, and that’s where we’re seeing the biggest increases,” he told The Times. “That’s why we’re seeing their share of murders and other violent crimes increased.”

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