COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — Four of the six counties in the News13 viewing area had the highest rates of violent crime in South Carolina in 2021, according to statistics in a report by SLED that also said the state’s murder rate is the highest since 1991.

Dillon County had the state’s highest violent crime rate in 2021 — 164 per 10,000 units of county population, the report said. Orangeburg (145), Darlington (110), Marlboro (92) and Florence (92) rounded out the top five.

The five counties with the lowest violent-crime rates were Edgefield (5), McCormick (18), Saluda (22), Dorchester (27) and Pickens (28).

The five counties with the largest increase in violent-crime rates in 2021 were Jasper (67%), Darlington (32%), McCormick (29%), Clarendon (20%) and Colleton (18%), the report showed.

Barnwell County had the biggest decrease in violent crime rate at 46%, followed by Lee (-30%), Saluda (-29%), Aiken (-28%) and Williamsburg (-28%).

Violent crimes include murder, sexual battery, robbery and aggravated assault.

According to the report by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, there were 566 murders in the state in 2021, up from 561 in 2020, an increase of 0.89% and the highest rate since 1991.

“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,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in a news release. “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.”

The data used to compile the 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,” Keel said. “I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their service and for providing this important information.”

The report also showed a dramatic increase in weapons-law violations, which were up 4.2% in 2021 and 80.8% in the past decade.

Property crimes fell for the 10th consecutive year in 2021, dropping 9% from 2020. The highest rate per 10,000 units of county population was 446 in Dillon County. The lowest was 66 in McCormick County.

Dillon County also saw an 18% jump in its property-crime rates in 2021, the biggest increase in the state.

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The full Crime in South Carolina 2021 report is available on SLED’s website.