Crime Statistics In Donald Trump's RNC Speech, Explained
On Thursday evening at the RNC, Donald Trump didn't begin his address by addressing the economy — on the most important issues among both Republicans and Democrats — or explaining how he'd "make America great again." Instead, Trump's RNC speech outlined crime statistics in America. Though the majority of his figures were correct, he ultimately painted a very one-sided view of crime in the U.S. by selectively choosing to omit other related facts. Focusing firstly on alleged domestic threats, he framed himself as the only deliverer of safety for the nation. He said:
After promising to provide facts "plainly and honestly" — and obviously without political correctness in mind — he cited an array of crime statistics on homicide rates in America's major cities. But does Trump's version of "fact" line up with other sources' reported data? First, he claimed:
Trump's numbers regarding the homicide rate in America's fifty largest cities came from a January Washington Post article written by Max Ehrenfreund and Denise Lu that uses a Wonkblog analysis of preliminary crime data. Trump blames the rising statistics on a "rollback of criminal enforcement." However, both Ehrenfreund and Lu concluded that causality is blurry. They point out that some particularly violent cities haven't experienced protests against law enforcement, like Ferguson and Baton Rouge have, that could risk causing such a rollback. They use Washington D.C., which has witnessed a 54 percent rise in crime but no racially charged crises, as a case in point. Meanwhile, New York City's crime rate dipped majorly in 2016.
Next, Trump moved from the East Coast to the Midwest, focusing primarily on Chicago. He indirectly attributed Chicago's homicides over the past seven years to Obama's administration. Again, Trump's proposed causality is already feeble.
According to the Chicago Tribune, there have been exactly 2,224 shooting victims in Chicago since the new year began. Note that Trump emphasized the role of guns in this point, making it seem as though the Democrats' push for stricter gun control is meaningless. He moved on to the number of police officer killings, a particularly relevant crisis after the Dallas and Baton Rouge attacks.
USA Today reported that police deaths have increased by 44 percent, not 50 percent. In 2015, 18 police officers had been killed by July. This year has witnessed the deaths of 26 officers. Though the increase is large, it's based on an already small number of deaths. In other words, the rate of law enforcement death spikes much more easily than the overall rate of murder in the U.S. Furthermore, Trump failed to suggest a solution for addressing racial profiling in law enforcement. In fact, he didn't acknowledge that it was a problem.
Though Trump's statistics were fairly accurate, he failed to tell the other half of the story and consequently distorted reality. The overall national crime rate has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s. And although certain cities may experience spikes in violence during certain years, the bigger picture offers a much more optimistic view of things.