With a series of charts and data, the Minneapolis Star Tribune attempts to fact-check the relentless assertions by President Trump that violent crime in America has increased. Like many others, the paper finds the opposite is true–that crime has been on a steep decline since the 1990s and is at its lowest points in decades, with some localized exceptions. That fact is important because Trump has the power to drive the national conversation and influence criminal justice policy. Those policies can come at a steep cost to the taxpayers; the War on Drugs is estimated to have cost more than $1 trillion. “If you start with bad facts, you’re going to get bad policies that might make the country less safe, that might strain relationships further between police and communities of color, that send more people to prison for little reason,” said Ames Grawert of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York.
Grawert says Trump’s crime assertions are plainly false. He said he believes the Trump administration is purposely overstating the problem of violent crime to generate support for policies like the border wall and the travel ban. “They only make sense as an overreaction to a clear-and-present danger,” he said. “So I think he needs to make the country feel less safe than it is to sell some of these policies.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ media office declined to comment or to provide an alternative data source to support Trump’s statements.