Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Allegheny County homicide rate driven by gun violence, report finds

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Homicides in Allegheny County are heavily concentrated in a handful of high-need communities and overwhelmingly impact young Black men, according to a new report from county researchers.

Both Pittsburgh and Allegheny County’s homicide rate had been declining in recent years, but has spiked since 2020.

The report analyzes six years of homicides in Allegheny County, as well as nonfatal shootings in the city of Pittsburgh. The study, conducted by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, was released last week.

“All people, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, deserve to live in neighborhoods that are safe and free of violence," the researchers wrote. But "violence is heavily concentrated in just a small number of higher-need communities and overwhelmingly cuts short the lives of young Black men."
Among the report’s findings:

  • The annual number of homicides was stable or declining from 2016 through 2019 both in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, but increased by 27% in the county and by 43% in the city from 2019 to 2021
  • Firearms were used in 86% of homicides during this time
  • Of the 643 homicides in Allegheny County during the period studied, Black men on average were the victims in 66% of homicides; most of those victims were between ages 18 and 34
  • Homicides are concentrated in the eastern city neighborhoods of East Hills, Homewood, Larimer and Lincoln-Lemington, as well as some other neighborhoods in the city’s upper North Side, Hill District, South Hilltop and West End, and outside of the city in Wilkinsburg, part of Penn Hills, and communities in the Mon Valley
  • Overall, homicides take place in a miniscule number of the county's census blocks — and 79% of the blocks affected lay in areas of moderate to extreme levels of “community need,” which the researchers measure by looking at poverty rates and other statistics.

From 2019 onward, most homicides in Allegheny County happened outside the City of Pittsburgh. In previous years, the majority of Allegheny County homicides were within the city, the report noted.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

Researchers said they undertook the examination to explain the factors driving violence, and to better inform “violence prevention efforts about the people and places most disproportionately impacted by involvement with or victimization.

"Efforts to reduce gun violence must be informed by data,” they wrote.

The report notes the rise in homicides locally in 2020 and 2021 is in line with national trends; it is also still lower than the homicide peak in the early 1990s.

The full report is available here, and an interactive map is here.

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.