The Bulletin

Four takeaways from Virginia’s 2021 crime stats

By: - June 29, 2022 8:31 pm

A police car in Richmond, Va. Police currently provide the vast majority of transports to psychiatric hospitals across Virginia. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

On Wednesday, the Virginia State Police released the state’s tally of crime statistics for 2021, showing a continued rise in violent crime and a sharp decrease in drug arrests, particularly for marijuana.

Here are four takeaways from the report:

Homicides and violent crime increased

Virginia saw 562 homicides reported for the year, up 6.4% from the 528 reported in 2020.

Police in Richmond reported the highest total number of murder and non-negligent manslaughter offenses, 90,  followed by 63 in Norfolk, 36 in Portsmouth, 29 in Newport News and 27 in Hampton.

A vast majority of homicides, more than 82%, involved a gun.

Several Virginia cities are launching new initiatives to try to reduce shootings, including outreach programs, gun buybacks and more robust anti-crime efforts. The budget recently approved by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the General Assembly included $13 million in anti-violence funding to help city governments and law enforcement address the issue.

The violent crime category, which includes murders as well as rapes, sexual assaults, robberies and aggravated assaults, showed an overall increase of 7.1%.

Drug arrests plummeted by nearly half

Young people aren’t getting arrested for drugs nearly as much as they used to, a trend state police attribute largely to the 2020 decriminalization and 2021 legalization of small amounts of marijuana. 

Last year, 3,138 people under the age of 25 were arrested for drugs, just a third of the 9,698 people arrested in the same category in 2020. 

Drug arrests for all age groups fell by 46.7% in 2021, driven largely by a massive, two-thirds decline in marijuana arrests.

The state recently reinstated some criminal penalties for marijuana possession in public, lowering the legal limit from one pound to four ounces.

Car thefts are up

A total of 11,638 vehicles were stolen in 2021, a slight increase from 2020 in a steadily rising category. Since 2015, vehicle thefts have risen by more than 43%.

Police reported recovering 7,589 vehicles for the year, some of which may have been stolen prior to 2021.

The total value of all vehicles reported stolen last year was $131.7 million.

Burglaries are down

Burglary rates continue to fall, dropping 8.4% last year.

The 10,464 burglaries and burglary attempts reported in 2021 were down roughly 166% from a decade ago.

Just 6% of the property stolen in burglaries last year was recovered.

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.