In 2018, there were 16,214 murders in the United States. That statistic breaks down to five homicides per 100,000 in population that year. If you divide the total number of murders by 365 days, the number of days in a year, you discover that the U.S. experienced 44.42 murders per day, which means about 44 people were murdered each day in the U.S.
States with the Highest Murder Rates and Totals
The states with the highest murder rates per 1,000 in population in 2018 were Louisiana with 11.4 murders per thousand, Missouri, with 9.2 murders per thousand, Alaska with 8.2 murders per thousand, Maryland, with 8.1 murders per thousand, New Mexico with 8.0 murders per thousand, Alabama, with 7.8 murders per thousand, South Carolina with 7.7 murders per thousand, and Tennessee, with 7.4 murders per thousand. Arkansas and Illinois round out the top 10 with 7.2 and 6.9 per thousand, respectively.
In terms of total murders in 2018, California stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack with 1,739. Texas is second with 1,322 total murders, and Florida follows with 1,107. Illinois had 884, followed by Pennsylvania with 784, Georgia with 642, North Carolina with 628, Missouri with 607, Ohio with 564, and New York with 562.
States with the Lowest Murder Rates and Totals
The states with the lowest murder rates per 1,000 in population in 2018 were South Dakota with 1.4 murders per thousand, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, with 1.5 murders per thousand each, Vermont with 1.6 murders per thousand, Iowa, with 1.7 murders per thousand, Maine with 1.8 murders per thousand, Minnesota and Utah, with 1.9 murders per thousand each, and Oregon and Massachusetts, with 2.0 murders per thousand each.
Vermont had the lowest total number of murders in 2018 with 10. South Dakota is close behind with 12, followed by Wyoming with 13, Rhode Island with 16, and North Dakota with 18. Outside the top five, you'll find New Hampshire with 21 total murders in 2018, followed by Maine with 24, Montana with 34, Idaho with 35, and Hawaii with 36.
How the Federal Government Collects Murder Statistics
FBI compiles murder statistics every year. The numbers that make up murder rates and murder totals using a narrow definition of murder as "the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another." The FBI uses the findings of law enforcement agencies rather than court decisions in adding up murder statistics.
Certain types of deaths aren't part of the FBI's murder statistics. Suicide, accidental deaths, and deaths caused by negligence don't count as murders. The FBI also removes self-defense deaths and criminals killed by law enforcement from the murder totals.
The Circumstances Behind Murders
FBI statistics also break down the circumstances behind murders. While the vast majority of murders happen under unknown circumstances, many murders occur while another crime is being committed. A large number of murders take place during robberies or drug-related crimes, while fewer of them take place for other violent felonies. More murders take place as the result of arguments over money than because of domestic violence as well. There are as many juvenile gang-related murders as there are adult gang-related killings.
The FBI also tracks the relationships between murderers and their victims. The vast majority of murder victims are acquaintances of their killers while wives and girlfriends are far more likely targets than husbands or boyfriends. Sons and brothers are more likely victims than are daughters and sisters as well.
Although the murder rate in the U.S. fluctuates from year to year, it usually stays within a consistent range. Experts in crime statistics have taken some encouragement from the trends in recent years. The murder rate in 2018 was a noticeable decrease from the prior two years after a couple of years of sharp increase.
Murder rates in large cities, in particular, have trended downward at an even greater rate than the total murder rate. Statisticians have noticed that the rates in bigger cities can predict the trends for the nation as a whole. The murder rates in the 21st century are far lower than in the 1980s and 1990s, which is another encouraging trend for those who take a longer view.