Crime rates lower, despite Trump’s warnings

Crime rates lower, despite Trump’s warnings
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The number of violent crimes committed in the nation’s largest cities fell again in 2017, according to a preliminary analysis, continuing a 30-year downward trend even as President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday Shows preview: Lawmakers, Trump allies discuss Russia probe, migrant family separation Seth McFarlane: Fox News makes me 'embarrassed' to work for this company  'Art of the Deal' co-author: Trump would act like Kim Jong Un if he had the same powers MORE warns of rising murder rates.

The analysis, conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice, estimated the overall crime rate in the 30 largest cities in the country dropped by 2.7 percent between 2016 and 2017. Violent crimes fell by a little more than 1 percent, but murder rates are down 5.6 percent.

Trump warned of rising crime rates as a candidate, and in his inaugural address he promised an end to what he called “this American carnage.” On Friday, addressing graduates of the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, Va., Trump cited a rise in murder rates in 2015 and 2016.

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“In the last two years, America has seen a tragic rise in violent crime,” Trump told FBI cadets. “No family should have to worry about bullets flying through windows, or gangs recruiting on street corners. Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, surrounded by a loving family, and preparing to embark on a bright, beautiful future.”

While crime rates have fallen around the country, a downward trend that began in the 1990s, several major cities, mostly in the industrial Midwest and the Rust Belt, have seen a spike in violence. In his speech Friday, Trump again turned to Chicago, a city plagued in recent years by a wave of gang-related violence.

But the Brennan Center’s report found murder rates fell sharply in Chicago, by nearly 12 percent this year. Murder rates in Detroit, Washington, Houston and New York also plunged significantly.

Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said Trump’s warnings are meant to bolster support for massive overhauls to the nation’s immigration system and a renewed focus on the war on drugs.

“Since day one in office, President Trump and his administration have wrongly pushed this idea of ‘American Carnage’ and a nationwide crime wave,” Chettiar said. “They appear to be trying to scare Americans into supporting some of the administration’s most controversial policies, from changes to drug prosecutions to aggressive immigration enforcement. But, numbers clearly undercut their claims. Crime rates this year remain near historic lows.”

The overall crime rate peaked in 1991, at about 5,850 crimes committed per 100,000 Americans. In 2015, the last year for which official FBI statistics are available, the rate stood at 2,857 per 100,000 people — up 1 percent from the previous year, but still less than half the 1991 rate. Violent crime and murder rates are also at about half their 1991 levels. 

Recent analyses suggest that the vast majority of the rise in violent crimes can be traced to just a handful of neighborhoods in Chicago.

Several cities are still struggling to get rising crime rates under control. Baltimore, undergoing a gang-fueled crime wave similar to Chicago’s, now has the highest murder rate of any large city in America. The city has suffered 353 murders so far this year, an 11 percent spike since last year. 

Philadelphia, Charlotte, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio have all seen dangerous rises in murders.

Overall, the crime rate declined in 14 of the 20 cities where data from 2017 could be analyzed. Washington, D.C. experienced the largest year-over-year drop in both crime and violent crime, while New York; San Diego; Austin, Texas; Louisville, Ky.; and Boston also saw significant declines. Crime rates rose most in Portland, Ore., while violent crimes spiked in Baltimore and Memphis, Tenn.

“This latest research from the Brennan Center refutes claims that crime is on the upswing in this country,” said Mark Holden, a senior vice president at Koch Industries, the privately held company owned by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

Criminal justice reform has become an area of rare bipartisan cooperation between mega-donors who usually find themselves on opposite sides of political debates. The Koch brothers and George Soros, the liberal billionaire, have jointly funded a project through the American Civil Liberties Union to reduce crime and reform the justice system.

Holden said the declining crime rates are no cause for complacency, and he pointed to states that have enacted new measures to reduce recidivism and increase treatment.

“We should learn from the dozens of states that have made moves to successfully reduce crime and recidivism while also reducing incarceration. Such common-sense reforms make everyone safer, including law enforcement officers, and ensure that decades of bipartisan progress on criminal justice reform continue,” Holden said in a statement.