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Murder rate in South Carolina highest since 1991, SLED reports

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division releases 2021 Crime in South Carolina Annual Report

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) released its Crime In South Carolina Annual Report for 2021 on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

While the overall trend was a decrease in violent crime in South Carolina, the murder rate did increase by 0.89% from 2020 to 2021 -- with 566 murders committed in 2021 -- the highest it’s been since 1991. 

SLED Chief Mark Keel said, “I am extremely concerned by the increasing number of murders in our state, however, I am optimistic to see the overall violent crime rate decreased by 5.1% in 2021 after historic highs in 2020. We have seen murders increase 52.2% over the past ten years. Although there was a decrease in the rate of sexual battery, the increase in the number of occurrences is troubling. The final murder, weapon law violation, and sexual battery numbers for this report should concern every citizen in our state.”

A comparison of the numbers from 2020 and 2021 shows:

  • VIOLENT CRIME          2020          2021
  • Murders                         561            566
  • Sexual battery               2,504         2,515
  • Robbery                        3,238         2,639
  • Aggravated assault       22,057       21,580
  • PROPERTY CRIME     2020          2021
  • Burglary                        22,545       19,453
  • Larceny/theft                106,467      98,216
  • Arson                            751            723
  • Motor vehicle theft        15,513       16,680

The data for this report is compiled from sheriff's offices and police departments from across the state.

RELATED: Columbia Police ask gun crime offenders to "cease fire"

Other notable trends in the report are

  • Sexual battery has decreased by 1% from 2020 to 2021, and has been steadily decreasing since 2015. It is down 5.5% since 2012. The rate of assaults by intimate partners has decreased by 1.4%.
  • Aggravated assaults saw a 5-year increase of 10.45% from 2017 to 2021 even though there was a 2.2% decrease from 2020 to 2021.
  • The percentage of overall property crimes decreased for the tenth consecutive year, decreased 9% from 2020 to 2021.
  • 2021 marks the eighth consecutive year for an increase of weapon law violations. Violations increased by 4.2% in the past year and 80.8% in the past ten years. 91% of weapon law violations included firearms, at least 76% of which were identified as handguns.
  • Drug law violations increased by 3.3% from 2020 to 2021. In the short term, a 5-year trend shows a 9.78% decrease in drug law violations; but a 10-year trend shows an increase of 15.1%. The most common drug is marijuana.
  • Zero law enforcement officers were murdered in the line of duty in 2021. Ten were murdered over the last ten years. Investigating a suspicious person is the most frequent officer activity reported for officers murdered over the last ten years.
  • The number of law enforcement officers assaulted was reduced by 8%. Responding to a disturbance was the most frequent officer activity reported for Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) victims of assault.

The report also summarizes crime by county to show statewide crime trends. By calculating crime rates in individual counties per 10,000 units of county populations, the report ranks the highest and lowest counties for crime:

  • Highest violent crime rates: Dillon (164), Orangeburg (145), Darlington (110), Marlboro (92), and Florence (92)
  • Lowest violent crime rates: Edgefield (5), McCormick (18), Saluda (22), Dorchester (27), and Pickens (28)
  • Highest property crime rates: Dillon (446), Orangeburg (413), Darlington (397), Florence (355), and Richland (352)
  • Lowest property crime rates: McCormick (66), Edgefield (78), Saluda (117), Allendale (144), and Lancaster (144)

The full report can be read here:

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