In this Monday, July 18, 2016, photograph, Denver Police Department officers head out to their patrol car after role call for the swing shift in District 6 in downtown Denver. After more than two decades of making officers patrol on their own, the city of Denver has revived two-officer patrols following the killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver police say there were 96 homicides in the city last year, the highest number recorded since 1981.

The number of killings spiked in 2020 when police recorded 95 homicides, up from 63 homicides in 2019, The Denver Post reported. Non-fatal shootings also remained more frequent than average in Denver last year, although they dropped from 2020 levels.

“We’re seeing individuals involved in these altercations had firearms with them and they resort to those firearms early on,” said Denver police Cmdr. Matt Clark with the Major Crimes Division. “They’re resolving these conflicts through the use of a firearm.”

The number of homicides has trended upward since 2014, when the city had a record-low 31 killings, according to data collected by The Post. Denver had 100 homicides in 1981, the highest recorded for the city.

The per-capita rate of 13 homicides per 100,000 residents last year is the highest since 2004, when the rate was 16 killings per 100,000, although the current rate still is lower than those recorded in the early 1980s and 1990s.

An analysis by the police department showed that domestic violence killings and homicides involving narcotics helped fuel the record number. The department also attributed 22 homicides to arguments or confrontations that spun out of control.

Criminologists point to a variety of possible factors for the increase in violence, including stress brought on by the pandemic, fallout from the 2020 police protests, a worsening drug-use epidemic and the continuous influx of guns into communities.

Colorado Springs and the Denver suburb of Aurora also also experienced significant increases in homicides in 2020.

The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative, serving member newspapers and broadcasters in the U.S., and other customers around the world. The Colorado Sun is proud to be one of them. AP journalists in more...