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Waco murder, vehicle theft numbers remained higher than usual in 2021

Posted at 10:05 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 23:05:32-05

WACO, Texas — Cities across the country have seen a spike in homicides and vehicle thefts since 2019, and the city of Waco has been no exception.

In 2021, 16 murders took place in the city and 480 vehicles were stolen. These numbers are comparable to 2020, which saw 17 murders and 432 stolen vehicles. Both years, however, are a large jump from pre-pandemic rates.

In 2019, there were just 9 reported murders and 310 stolen vehicles. The soaring numbers locally and nationally are raising questions for crime experts.

"If we had a simple explanation for crime, then a lot of people would be out of jobs," said Tammy Brucewell, associate professor of criminal justice at Texas A&M University Central Texas.

The Waco Police Department said it's difficult to pin down an exact reason for the increases.

"Some of those cases, especially our murder cases, are the worst that our detectives have to handle," said Waco police public information officers Cierra Shipley. "Murder is so hard because it's the one crime that we can't completely prevent."

As for vehicle thefts, Shipley encourages people to never leave their keys in their car or leave valuables sitting out in the open.

Brucewell acknowledged that while there are theories for the crime increases seen during the pandemic, it is too soon to draw any conclusions.

"Health concerns, economic concern, political concerns...all of these different stresses are coming together," she said. "Is that necessarily a cause? We don't know yet."

The police department also points to an increase in the number of crimes being reported because of outreach efforts.

"Of course, as we ask people more and more to 'If you see something, say something,' our reports are going to go up," Shipley said.

Overall, violent crime increased by 4% in Waco in 2021. Nonviolent crime increased by just 1%. Complete statistics for the year can be found on the Waco Police Department website.