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:

Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims. I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.

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:

Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America's fifty largest cities. That's the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation's capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.
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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.

In the President's hometown of Chicago, more than 2,000 have been the victims of shootings this year alone. And more than 3,600 have been killed in the Chicago area since he took office.
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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.

The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 percent compared to this point last year.

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.