For weeks now, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been harping on how crime is allegedly “out of control” in American cities. On Monday morning, he reiterated the talking point as part of his ongoing pitch to African American voters:
Trump didn’t cite any evidence to support the point he’s trying to make. But his claim that crime is at “record levels” in the inner-city or elsewhere is false. Violent crime in America’s cities has actually been declining for two decades. The New York Police Department’s latest crime figures embody the point — while murders are up 12 percent so far this year relative to 2014, they’re down 82 percent compared to 23 years ago.
“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,” the authors of a report on 2015 crime data for the Brennan Center For Justice wrote.
When Trump has used specific numbers, he’s cherry-picked ones that take long-term trends out of context. For instance, during his speech to the Republican National Convention last month, Trump mentioned that homicide rates in the country’s 50 largest cities were up last year compared to 2014. That’s factually correct, but it’s also a misleading way to talk about crime, as a brief uptick isn’t inconsistent with a long-term downward trend.
With regard to crime more broadly, the Brennan report found that “crime rates remain at historic lows nationally, despite recent upticks in a handful of cities.”
But Trump isn’t one to let data get in the way of a narrative he wants to push. For instance, last year he tweeted a series of made up murder statistics from a fake stats bureau purportedly showing that blacks are responsible for way more violent crime than is actually the case. It was later revealed that a graphic Trump shared containing the made-up “statistics” was posted by a neo-Nazi who used a swastika as his avatar.
Rather than rolling out an actually policy agenda aimed at addressing problems in America’s cities, Trump has courted African Americans by painting an exceedingly bleak portrait of their lives in front of the predominately white audiences who attend his rallies.
When he’s pressed on what he’ll actually do to try and tamp down on crime, Trump merely points out that he supports “tough police tactics” without specifying what that entails.
He publicly congratulated himself after the recent murder of Nykea Aldridge, cousin of NBA superstar Dwyane Wade, because he believes that sort of senseless violence encourages African Americans to vote Trump, even if he doesn’t have a real plan to do anything about it. So far, his message hasn’t resonated— recent polling shows Trump in the single digits among African Americans.