Trump’s Charge of ‘American Carnage’? Not So Much, Per New Crime Report.

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Trump’s Charge of ‘American Carnage’? Not So Much, Per New Crime Report.

Auditi Guha

“The fear [Trump administration officials] are trying to create doesn’t really have a basis in fact.”

Despite Trump administration rhetoric that immigrants, Muslims, transgender troops, protesters and communities of color threaten U.S. security, a new Brennan Center for Justice report on crime projects that 2017 is on track to be the second-safest year since 1990.

The country’s murder rate is falling from 2016 rates, crime in the nation’s major cities has declined, and the overall crime rate has remained essentially the same with small decreases, according to the report. Meanwhile, the president and administration officials continue spouting talk about “American carnage” and the need to “restore responsibility and the rule of law.” 

So why does the Trump administration flat-out lie about crime in the United States, asked Ames Grawert, counsel at the Brennan Center’s Justice Program and a co-author of the report?

“When you look at what Trump and [U.S. Attorney General Jeff] Sessions plan to do with immigration and criminal justice, how they are so far out of the mainstream even for most Republicans, you see that they need some way to justify what they are saying to the public because data and experience aren’t enough to justify their ideas. So they have to convince the public that there is danger lurking just around the corner to give them the power to deal with that danger,” Grawert told Rewire in a phone interview. “Our report shows that the fear they are trying to create doesn’t really have a basis in fact.”

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The report’s analysis of historical trends and crime reports from police departments in America’s 30 largest cities shows that:

  • The murder rate is projected to be 2.5 percent lower than 2016.
  • This is mainly due to crime decreasing in Detroit (down 25.6 percent), Houston (down 20.5 percent), and New York City (down 19.1 percent).
  • The violent crime rate is projected to decrease by 0.6 percent this year.
  • The overall crime rate in 2017 is projected to decrease by 1.8 percent or basically remains stable. 

“In contrast to what we have been hearing from the president and attorney general, this new data from police departments shows that all measures of crime and murder are in decline this year. It’s irresponsible to incite public panic based on falsehoods, and it makes our police officers’ jobs harder,” said Ronal Serpas, co-chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders, a Brennan Center project that aims to change laws to reduce crime and incarceration in the United States.

A police officer for 34 years and police chief for 13 years in three different states, Serpas told Rewire via phone that saying people of color and immigrants are responsible for crime or attacking other people doesn’t reflect his law enforcement experiences or statistics. And he is particularly concerned about the administration’s apparent expectation that police officers check residents’ immigration status. That’s a job that belongs to the federal government, he said, not local police departments that are busy investigating crime. And having police do immigration checks is ultimately counterproductive because it discourages crime reporting.

“If we have any strategy that influences people to not report crime because of some other issue, we’ve essentially shot ourselves in the foot,” he said.

Serpas said we should welcome data that accurately maps crime and be relieved that it is generally dropping rather than politicizing it.

Despite falling crime nationwide, the report shows that crime has spiked in some cities. For example, Charlotte, North Carolina’s murder rate doubled in the first six months compared to last year.

Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association group of metropolitan law enforcement leaders in North America, said in a statement that “this report’s new data is sound. They estimate crime and murder will decrease this year, which is welcome news for law enforcement officers. We’re hopeful that will remain the case when final numbers come in at the end of the year.”