Trump’s lies about crime are exposed by the latest data

He wants you to believe America is in the throes of a crime wave. Evidence indicates the opposite is true.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Crime data released Wednesday by the Brennan Center for Justice shows that the long-term downward trend in violent crime in American cities is on track to continue this year.

The Brennan Center’s report indicates that 2017 is on pace to have the second-lowest crime rate since 1990. Violent crime is down 0.6 percent — “about 1 percent above 2014’s violent crime rate, the lowest recorded since 1990” — and the murder rate is projected to be down 2.5 percent. One crime analyst takes issue with Brennan’s methodology of compiling murder statistics, but he too acknowledges that murder rates are near historic lows.

CREDIT: BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE
CREDIT: BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE

Though there have been short-term violent crime spikes in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, crime in America’s largest cities has been on a downward trajectory for two decades. But that didn’t stop Donald Trump from seizing upon one-year increases in isolated cases to make a case on the campaign trail that the country was in the throes of a crime epidemic.

That same style of rhetoric infused Trump’s “American carnage” inaugural speech, during which he decried “the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

Fear-mongering about crime is also a hallmark of Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Just over a week ago, Sessions, speaking to the 63rd Biennial Conference of the National Fraternal Order of Police, falsely claimed that “after decreasing for nearly 20 years because of the hard but necessary work our country started in the 1980s, violent crime is back with a vengeance.” During remarks he delivered immediately after being sworn in as AG, Sessions asserted “we have a crime problem,” going as far as to falsely characterize it as “a dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk.”

The data indicates that the urban crime wave Trump and Sessions want you to believe exists is just another of the administration’s “alternative facts.” Neverthless, they’ve used their rhetoric as a pretext to embrace harsher policing and law enforcement practices. As the Washington Post notes, those include “reinstating mandatory minimum sentences for drug users, providing surplus military equipment to police departments, [a] dismantling of sanctuary cities, [and] a new program to combat gun, gang, and drug violence in 12 cities across the United States.”

In late July, Trump went as far as to endorse “rough rides” of the sort that resulted in the death of Freddie Gray during a speech to police officers in New York, telling them that “when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddywagon, you just see ’em thrown in rough. I said please don’t be too nice.”

“Like when you guys put somebody into the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand, like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody, don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”