Fact Check: Claims about Crime in Donald Trump’s Acceptance Speech
In tonight’s speech, Donald Trump will accept the presidential nomination of the Republican party. The text of Trump’s speech makes the following claims regarding crime in the United States:
“These are the facts:
“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this Administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.
“Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”
Let’s look at these two claims and check the facts.
Fact Check of Claim 1: “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this Administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.”
Response: The annual FBI report Crime in the United States provides the most recent data on crime, both in the United States overall and in particular communities. Annual reports are released every fall to describe crime in the year before, based on direct reports of police officers all over the country (the delay occurs because it takes time to gather all those reports and carefully tabulate them). The most recent report was released in 2015, describing crime in the year 2014. Anyone who tells you they know about U.S. national crime trends for any more recent year is fibbing — because 2016 isn’t over yet, and because final counts for 2015 are still being worked on.
The trends on violent and property crime victimization rates in the United States are shown below, from the very first page of the 2015 Crime in the United States report, released at the end of September 2015:
People can disagree about policy, but it is not possible for policy changes to have led to a reversal in progress in the crime rate in the United States, because there is no evidence that such a reversal exists.
Fact Check of Claim 2: “Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”
We don’t actually know whether this is the case, because final data for 2015 is not yet available. A preliminary count, that is not a final count, that is only for the first six months of 2015, and that is only for cities with over 100,000 in population — has been released. Here it is. Let’s realize, based on this data (look at Table 4), that:
First, we do not yet actually have a final count for 2015.
Second, on the basis that only the first six months of 2015 have been counted, it is not possible to make the conclusion that Donald Trump makes regarding the entire year.
Third, if we actually look at the fifty largest cities in the United States, and look at the preliminary count for the first six months of 2015 (not the entire year), we find that the homicides are up 8.4% in America’s fiftiest largest cities compared to 2014 — Donald Trump’s speech claims twice as much as this.
Fourth, it’s interesting that the speech only focuses on homicide, and not on violent crime in general. The increase in the violent crime rate from 2014 to 2015 is 3.1%.
Fifth, even these rises do not take into account the rise in population of America’s fifty largest cities, increasing the population, which will of course increase the number of murders.
Sixth, even this increase, in the context of the huge falls of the last twenty years, still marks a low crime rate in America’s fifty largest cities in recent history. The preliminary homicide rate in the fifty largest cities of the United States in the first six months of 2015 was 4.06 homicides per 100,000 people. In the first six months of 2015, the overall violent crime rate was 305.7 per 100,000 people. By comparison, in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president and the decline in homicides was already well underway, the homicide rate was 12.1 per 100,000 people in America’s 50 largest cities, and the overall violent crime rate was per 852.9 per 100,000 people. In other words, since Barack Obama became president, if the 2015 preliminary data holds, the homicide rate is down 66.4% and the violent crime rate is down 64.2%.
It turns out that Donald Trump’s claim is based on a post made in very early estimate by a blogger using very early data in January 2016, less than a month after 2015 ended.
This second claim by Republican nominee Donald Trump, like the first, is not supported by the facts.