During a speech to a gathering of police chiefs in Florida on Monday, President Trump proclaimed that “before I took office less than two years ago, our nation was experiencing an historic surge in violent crime.”
Trump went on to cherry-pick data as part of his case that his administration deserves credit for ending the purported crime surge.
“In 2015 [and] 2016, an additional 128,000 violent crimes were committed nationwide compared to the previous two years — that’s a tremendous number of additional crime [sic],” Trump said. “Over the same period, we witnessed the steepest two year consecutive increase in murders in nearly half a century. But we are turning that tide around very rapidly…By the end of this year, murders in major cities are estimated by drop by close to 10 percent from their levels in 2016.”
Trump lies, claims "before I took office less than two years ago, our nation was experiencing a historic surge in violent crime." (Violent crime has been steadily declining for more than two decades.) pic.twitter.com/B2HNLWkyJQ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 8, 2018
It is not the case, however, that America was in the throes of a violent crime surge when Trump took office.
While there have been short-term violent crime spikes in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, recent data from the Brennan Center for Justice shows that violent crime in America’s largest cities has been steadily decreasing for more than two decades — through both Democratic and Republican administrations.
In general, year-to-year crime statistics like the ones Trump cited in his speech tend to be highly variable, so the long-term trend is the more important indicator.
Monday is not the first time that the Trump administration has tried to take credit for ending a fake crime wave.
In January, the Department of Justice and White House touted FBI crime statistics showing a very slight 0.8 percent drop in U.S. violent crime in 2017 by suggesting that Americans were hopelessly mired in crime-ravaged communities until Trump took office and turned the situation around.
"For the first time in a long time, Americans can have hope for a safer future, with a slower murder rate and decreasing violent crime." Read more from AG Sessions: https://t.co/2BQMob4BPR
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 24, 2018
In fact, this fractional drop in violent crime in the first half of 2017 paled in comparison to other recent years — there was a 4.4 percent drop in violent crime in 2013, for instance.
During another part of his speech on Monday, Trump urged the city of Chicago to implement unconstitutional and ineffective “stop-and-risk” policing, and announced he has directed the Department of Justice to “work with local authorities” in hopes the city will do so.
The president also pitted law enforcement against the media and Democrats by goading police chiefs to applaud his attacks on each of them.