Trump’s Rhetoric About Crime In ‘Inner Cities’ Is All Bait And No Data


In the wake of a historically violent week in America last week, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been promising to “make America safe again.”

“Too many headlines flash across our screens everyday about the rising crime and rising death tolls in our cities,” Trump said in a Facebook video posted last Friday. He echoed that sentiment during a speech Monday in Virginia Beach, characterizing the country’s inner cities as being “rife with crime” and describing himself as the “law and order candidate” who will get the situation under control.

Trump followed up with tweets on the same theme Tuesday morning.

Chicago has experienced a spike in shootings and homicides this year, even though violent crime throughout the city as a whole has steadily declined for 15 years. That decrease mirrors what’s gone on nationwide. From 1993 through 2012, the country’s violent crime rate was nearly cut in half, and last year the U.S. murder rate hit a 33-year low as the number of serious crimes committed nationwide fell for the eighth year consecutively.


Last October, the Congressional Research Service published a paper entitled “Is Violent Crime in the United States Increasing?” The study notes that despite media coverage that would lead you to believe crime is rising in American cities, “homicide and violent crime rates have been trending downward for more than two decades, and both rates are at historic lows.”

From the paper:

Overall, reported homicides were up 16% in 2015, but a majority of cities (44 of 60) have not seen a statistically significant increase in homicides. The general consensus is that it is too early to draw any conclusions about the reversal of long term trends. Also, even if homicide and violent crime rates do increase this year, it may not portend a break in the long-term trend. Even though both rates have been on a downward trend since 1990, there were years where either the homicide rate or violent crime rate increased.

As ThinkProgress has previously documented, drawing firm conclusions from crime data is a fool’s errand, especially when applied to a small sample size. But the long-term trend is clear — violent crime in American cities was a bigger problem at the end of the George H.W. Bush administration that it is in the waning days of Obama.

Trump’s misleading rhetoric about crime comes amid polling showing he has next to no support among African Americans. A late June Quinnipiac poll touted Monday on CNN by Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski showed Trump with just one percent support among that demographic, compared to 91 percent support for Hillary Clinton.