GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The FBI released its annual crime statistics report this week, offering a look at how crime increased and decreased across the country last year. The FBI says it is the first time in four years that the nation at large has seen an increase in the number of violent crimes reported, compared to the year prior.
The FBI compiles the report every year by culling together information from police departments across the country. There are 561 agencies in Michigan that are eligible to report their data, of which 549 participated for the 2020 report.
“It's used for a lot of things; it can be used informationally for people within the communities that are at play, to determine what funds or how they want to dedicate to the police, or how they want to use their police,” Professor Jeffrey D. Swartz, of WMU-Cooley Law School, told FOX 17.
“The second thing that it's used for is funding. That is, that there are certain funds that are furnished by the federal government as part of their budget; that can be based upon in some degree about the need that a community has for the money."
Michigan saw reports of violent crime increase 12 percent from 2019 to 2020. While there were 548 murders in the state in 2019, there were 693 in 2020.
Michigan also saw a substantial increase in the amount of violent crimes occurring in the home. In 2019 there were 25,899 violent incidents in Michigan homes, while there was 28,479 in 2020.
Swartz says this is likely directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and people spending more time at home.
“I think COVID played a great deal of the rise in crime. People, first of all, were locked up in their homes. Many of them were out of jobs, so they had no money coming in. Then before there were real relief funds coming to them, the crime would rise," Swartz explained.
"And even with the relief funds, not everybody who wanted to gain relief funds were able to get it. So that kept people in their homes; that kept them hungry; it kept them not being able to pay their rent until there was rent relief. There were all kinds of things that were happening in early 2020 that maybe we need to dive a little bit deeper, and see month by month what occurred.”
Not all crimes increased for Michigan in 2020.
Sexual assault incidents were down, with 6,814 incidents in 2019, and 5,592 in 2020.
Property crimes were also down substantially for Michigan in 2020.
There was a 12 percent decrease in reports of property-related crimes from 2019 (158,898) to 2020 (135,687). This number has been steadily decreasing since 2016.
One of the state reports that the FBI uses to compile its own report is the Crime in Michigan Annual Report. You can find more detailed information, and further breakdowns of data, in this 73-page report.
Grand Rapids saw a 65.5 percent increase in aggravated assaults from 2019 to 2020, and a 300 percent increase in homicides. There were 8 people killed in 2019, and 32 killed in 2020.
Muskegon Heights, on the other hand, saw a 40 percent decrease in the number of murders they saw in 2020, compared to the year before, with an overall decrease of 18.6 percent when it comes to violent crimes.