Murders up in Virginia, while overall violent crime declined in 2020

Virginia saw violent crime fall slightly in 2020 compared with 2019, according to an annual crime report from state police.

Overall, there was a 1.9% drop — with 15,713 violent crimes reported in 2020, compared with 16,018 in 2019. Violent crimes are listed as murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault.

Homicides were up by about 23.4%, from 428 to 528. According to police figures, 45.1% of homicide victims were men age 18 to 34; 52.7% of offenders were men between age 18 and 34. Nearly half of all homicides happened at a residence.

That uptick was also seen in some areas of Northern Virginia. There were three murders in both Arlington County and Alexandria in 2020, up from two in each of those areas in 2019.

There were two murders reported by police in Warrenton last year, up from none the year before.

One Northern Virginia county not seeing an increase is Prince William, where there were 14 murders — a more than 50% drop from 30 murders the year before.

There were a total of eight officer-involved shootings in Northern Virginia in 2020. Four of them involved deaths. That’s up from three total officer-involved shootings and no deaths from those in Northern Virginia in 2019.

There were 36 statewide last year, meaning more than 20% of all officer-involved shootings in 2020 took place in Northern Virginia.

Vehicle thefts, both successful and failed, saw a bump, too: 2020 had about 6% more, with 11,209 vehicles reported stolen, compared with 10,575 in 2019. According to the report, the aggregate value of all motor vehicles stolen was $113,993,341. Police recovered 6,366 stolen vehicles in 2020.

Drug arrests dropped dramatically. Overall, it was down by 36.7%, and by 48.6% for people younger than 18. Marijuana arrests were also down, by 31.7%. The report credits the decriminalization of possessing less than an ounce, which went into effect last July.

Successful and attempted burglaries decreased by 18.4% to 11,413. Hate crimes, however, ticked up slightly by 2.7% to 190 total reported cases, with 193 victims.

“Two offenses indicated more than one type of bias motivation,” police said. “Nearly three-fourths (72.8%) were racially or ethnically motivated. Bias toward sexual orientation and religion were next-highest (14.4%, 11.8%, respectively). Of all reported bias-motivated crime, 77.4% were assault offenses … or destruction/damage/vandalism of property.”

Overall, arrests in Virginia dropped by 24.8% to 206,609.

Read the full report online.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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