How many people died in homicides in Birmingham in 2021? It’s not clear

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A map of Birmingham homicides in 2021

Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

In 2020, the city of Birmingham saw the highest number of homicides in 25 years. I was left wondering who these victims were, their age, where they lived, etc.

So in 2021, I decided to spend time every week logging the daily homicide reports from the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office and cross-referencing them against the public media releases by the Birmingham Police Department.

It was a project that should have been straightforward. But it turned out to be much more difficult.

On at least 15 occasions, the BPD’s media releases did not match the information found in the coroner’s report. This includes information like the spelling of the victim’s name or even their gender.

On 11 other occasions, BPD released preliminary information about the victim, but there wasn’t a follow-up release. That made tracking the data for those victims challenging.

On at least two other occasions, BPD didn’t issue a media release for a homicide investigation that happened in their jurisdiction. We double-checked with the coroner’s office, those cases are still assigned to BPD. But according to the public records on the police department’s website, those cases don’t exist.

But confirming the identity of these roughly 30 victims with the Birmingham Police Department become even more difficult. When we asked for clarification about these cases and their status, the police department responded without offering those details.

A letter from the Birmingham Police Department to the staff at WBHM.

So given that, what do we know about the data we do have?

Data collected by WBHM reports that in 2021, the city of Birmingham had 101 confirmed homicides – meaning that we were able to confirm the victims’ identity by cross-referencing their police cases against the coroner’s reports.

WBHM also tracked:

  • 11 additional homicide cases where we have preliminary information about the victim but not a follow-up release with confirmed identifiable information like the victim’s name
  • At least two homicide cases where a coroner’s report was issued for the victim but not a police report
  • Two homicide cases where BPD released a report about the victim but WBHM didn’t get a report from the coroner’s office

This brings WBHM’s 2021 Birmingham homicide count to a preliminary 116.

But tracking the 2021 homicide data appeared to be difficult for other news organizations including AL.com. They reported that in 2021 Birmingham had 118 homicides after the “justifiable deaths” are removed.

This is an interactive map that will tell you more about Birmingham’s homicide victims from 2021. Click on the individual X’s to read more about their case. Also, you’ll see more homicide cases as your scroll in. For the navigation, click on the far upper left corner of the map.

What do we know about the victims?

Birmingham’s homicide victims ranged from 3-months-old to 75-years-old. But roughly 61% of all the city’s homicides were between the ages of 21 and 40.

The majority of the homicide cases were male, and roughly 89% of all victims were identified as Black.

December 2021 marked the deadliest month with 18 homicides. This is on par with 2020, where the city recorded 20 homicides in December, the highest number in a single month for that year.

Also, a firearm was used in roughly 91% of all homicide cases in 2021.

 

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