Author: Elizabeth Preza
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continuously laments the state of crime in the United States, insisting the problem is “out of control” and alleging our inner cities are comparable to “war zones in countries that we’re fighting.”
He peddled this notion even more last week, posting to Twitter Monday, “Inner-city crime is reaching record levels. African-Americans will vote for Trump because they know I will stop the slaughter going on!” But in his aggressive—albeit shallow—push for black votes, Trump is once again advancing a false narrative that simply doesn’t square with the truth. In short, over the past two decades, violent crime in America’s cities has steadily declined, and nationally, crime remains at historic lows.
In 2015, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that despite a recent uptick of crime in some regions, two-thirds of U.S. cities saw a drop in crime, while overall crime rates remained steady. “The average person in a large urban area is safer walking on the street today than he or she would have been at almost any time in the past 30 years,” authors Ames Grawert and James Cullen wrote.
The Brennan Center report also noted that because murder rates are so low, “a small numerical increase can lead to a large percentage change.” Such is the case in New York City, where, according to the New York Police Department’s crime figures, while murders are up 12 percent this year compared with 2014, they’re still down 82 percent compared with 1993.
One of Trump’s favorite case studies on crime is Chicago, which, along with Baltimore and Washington DC, accounted for more than half of the national increase in murders in 2015. Last week, Trump told his number-one fan girl Bill O’Reilly he could solve the city’s problem “in one week” by putting “people in charge” who are tough on crime. Four days later, the Republican nominee horrified the masses when he patted himself on the back for his illuminated view of Chicago’s deadly streets.
“[NBA star] Dwyane Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago,” Trump tweeted. “Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”
But while Wade’s tragedy is certainly emblematic of a larger problem in Chicago, it’s hardly representative of the downward trend of violent crime in the rest of the country. And even with the upward tick in violent crime in Chicago in recent years, murder is far from at “record levels,” as Trump insists. In 2015, 493 people were killed in Chicago, which as the Washington Post reports, is “a bit over half of the city’s peak and fewer than were killed at the tail end of the Capone era.”
In its report, the Brennan Center analyzed the factors impacting the rise of crime rates in Chicago, Baltimore and DC. It found the “increases seem to be localized, rather than part of a national pandemic, suggesting that community conditions remain the major factor.” Among the community conditions listed by the center were “falling populations, higher poverty rates, and higher unemployment than the national average.”
“This implies that economic deterioration of these cities could be a contributor to murder increases,” the report reads.
Of course, the nuanced factors contributing to the rise of crime in certain U.S. cities are lost on Trump, whose blanket solution to the problem is to put “the right people in charge.”
But considering this is the same candidate who rattles off erroneous claims about black-on-white crime, and whose plea to black voters took place in front of a predominately white crowd and portrayed blacks—according to the New York Times—“as living lives of utter desperation,” it’s unsurprising that his pitch for “law and order” sounds like B.S. What would be surprising is if voters buy it.