COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The murder rate in South Carolina is at its highest level since 1991, according to an annual report released by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) this week.

According to the report, ‘Crime in South Carolina 2021,’ revealed the rate of murder in South Carolina increased by 0.89% while weapon law violations were up 4.2% in 2021 and 80.8% in the past 10 years.

SLED’s report shows 566 murders were recorded last year compared to 561 in 2020.

Property crimes continued to fall for the tenth consecutive year in South Carolina, dropping 9% in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Violent crime rates were also down overall in 2021 compared to the year before.

The 2021 data for violent and property crime compared to 2020 is as follows:

Sexual Battery2,5042,515Larceny/Theft106,46798,216
Aggravated Assault22,05721,580Motor Vehicle Theft15,51315,680

Colleton County was listed among the greatest increases in violent crime rates, at +18%, while Dorchester County was listed as having seen the lowest violent crime rates. Williamsburg County also saw a decrease in violent crime rates.

“I am extremely concerned by the increasing number of murders in our state, however I am optimistic to see the overall violent crime rate decreased by 5.1% in 2021 after historic highs in 2020,” said SLED Chief Mark Keel. “We have seen murders increase 52.2% over the past ten years. Although there was a decrease in the rate of sexual battery, the increase in the number of occurrences is troubling. The final murder, weapon law violation and sexual battery numbers for this report should concern every citizen in our state.”

Keel believes gangs, drugs, and easy access to guns are among the top reasons for the violence seen across South Carolina.

“We must work together to combat crime in our communities, and that means working with our elected officials, criminal justice system partners, and community leaders,” he said.

Data compiled within the 2021 report comes from sheriff’s offices and police departments across the state.

“These numbers are no surprise to the dedicated officers who strive to make South Carolina a safe place to live, work and raise a family,” said Chief Keel. “I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their service and for providing this important information.”