Earlier today at a rally for veterans in Virginia Beach, Donald Trump predictably spent a lot of time on policing and safety issues. Most of his speech focused on lowering crime and protecting police, while making the impossible promise “to make sure that every single citizen of this country has a safe home, a safe school and a safe community” (17:25 of the above video).
“Violent crime has increased in cities across America. The New York Times described the startling rise in murders in our major cities,” Trump told the Virginia crowd at about the 17:00 point of the video. But both of those statements are very misleading, and take into account only the first three months of 2016, where a spike in murder and violent crime occurred.
Trump sited what seems to be an often quoted New York Times article with the scary headline “Homicide Rates Jump in Many Major U.S. Cities, New Data Shows” from May of 2016. But if he had actually read the article, instead of just the headline, he would have read that while homicides in some major cities has increased significantly, the same number of cities reported decreases or similar numbers from last year. New York’s murder rate is down 25% from the same period last year, though Las Vegas’s rate nearly doubled. The murder rate overall in 2016 year to date is up slightly over the same period in 2016, but not exactly startling. The violent crime rate is also slightly up in 2016 from the same period of 2015. The Congressional Research Service stated that “overall, reported homicides were up 16% in 2015, but a majority of cities (44 of 60) have not seen a statistically significant increase in homicides.”
What Trump is ignoring in his attempt to garner your fear, is that the murder and violent crime rates are vastly lower than they were in the 1990s, and have been declining since. These new increasing numbers may actually be a victim of the police’s success as the murder and violent crime rates cannot go to zero, and being so low they are bound to sometimes go up. Look at this graph from The Brennan Center:
That’s right, violent crime is at it’s lowest levels since the 1960s. Almost as startling is that the murder rate is well below half of it’s peak in 1991. This graph is from Death Penalty Info:
With all of the horrific violence that has taken place in our country in the last few weeks it is easy to think that our society is descending into “total chaos,” as Trump said in his speech today. But low unemployment and better policing have lead to drastic decreases in the overall crime rate in the last decade. There is a disquieting increase in the rates for the first quarter of 2016, but don’t let a demagogue incite you to hide in your home, or worse, vote for Donald Trump.