By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Statistics released by the FBI earlier this week showed that murders spiked across the country in 2020, and Wyoming followed suit — to a degree.
However, the state’s total of 17 murders in all of 2020 are fewer than the number of murders that occur in one weekend in some large cities.
This was an increase of 21.4% from the 14 murders seen in 2019.
Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, believes that Wyoming has so few murders because of the population’s overall friendly disposition coupled with a love of guns.
“It’s not as contentious or lawless here as a number of states that have murder rates going up,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “Plus, the odds of starting something somebody else might finish are pretty good.”
Oedekoven noted that Wyoming also doesn’t have the gang violence common to large cities such as Washington, D.C., Portland or Chicago, which contributes to the state’s low murder rate.
“Generally speaking, homicide victims in Wyoming know their assailant and I think it would be incumbent upon us to take a peek at the makeup of those homicides,” Oedekoven said. “I doubt you’re finding the stranger danger too often here.”
According to statistics website Statista, Wyoming was third in the nation for the lowest number of murders in 2020, behind New Hampshire with 12 and Vermont with 14.
The total number of murders seen in Wyoming in 2020 was an increase of 21.4% over the 14 murders reported in 2019 and is the highest number reported since 2016, when 20 people were murdered.
According to FBI statistics, the number of murders in the U.S. jumped by nearly 30% in 2020 compared to 2019, the largest single-year increase ever recorded in the country. The data showed there were 21,570 homicides in the United States last year, 4,901 more than in 2019.
The FBI said the national average homicide rate in 2020 was 6.5 per 100,000 people, whereas Wyoming’s murder rate would be 0.3 per 100,000 people.
While the nation’s murder rate is still below the historic peaks seen in the 1990s, the 2020 figures show the problem is much more widespread, according to NPR.
The FBI data showed murder increased more on a percentage basis in cities with a population between 10,000 and 25,000 than in cities of 250,000 to 1 million.
Much of the violence involved firearms, with nearly 77% of murders being committed with some sort of gun.
NPR reported that researchers said a range of factors contribute to annual homicide variations, and the turmoil of 2020 — including the coronavirus pandemic and the fallout from George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis by police — likely played a role in the increase of homicides last year.