The Washington Post offers a fact check on recent statements by President Donald Trump on crime. The newspaper says, giving him three ‘Pinocchios,’ that he “often takes crime statistics out of context or gets them flat-out wrong.” For one thing, he makes references to Democrat-led inner cities, but “inner cities” is not a category by which crime is measured. He accurately cites a statistic from the Brennan Center for Justice that in the largest 30 cities, homicides increased by 14 percent from 2015 to 2016. One outlier city — Chicago — was responsible for 43.7 percent of the total increase. Overall, violent crime is on a decades-long decline, since the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s.
Crime trends can randomly fluctuate year to year. This is why criminologists do not make generalizations about trends based on short-term comparisons of rates, such as annual or monthly changes. In Philadelphia, he claimed the city’s homicide rate is “terribly increasing.” Actually, homicides have declined significantly in Philadelphia over the past decade, from 397 in 2007 to 277 in 2016. Trump also claimed that two people were fatally shot during President Obama’s farewell speech on Jan. 10. No one was shot and killed in Chicago. Four shootings occurred that day, with a total of six people shot, but no one died. Crime trends are susceptible to cherry-picking, because they fluctuate so much for many reasons. The general consensus among criminologists is that two years’ worth of data (such as upticks in crime in 2015 and 2016) are not enough evidence to prove a crime wave. So Trump’s claims using data from “inner cities,” or the 30 largest U.S. cities, to make sweeping statements about “American carnage” is misleading.