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Fact check: Trump falsely claims US crime stats are only going up. Most went down last year, including massive drop in murder

<i>Paul Sancya/AP via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Grand Rapids
Paul Sancya/AP via CNN Newsource
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Grand Rapids

By Daniel Dale, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Former President Donald Trump falsely claimed on Tuesday that US crime statistics are “only” going up. In fact, most US crime numbers went down last year – and the decreases included one of the largest national declines in murder ever recorded. 

Trump’s speech in Michigan focused on crime perpetrated by people who illegally entered the US. After he said that crime in Venezuela has fallen amid a wave of emigration from the South American country – and exaggerated the extent of Venezuela’s improvement – he added, “Wouldn’t we love to have a statistic where crime is down 67%? Ours is only going in one direction.” He pointed sharply upward with his hand.

Facts FirstTrump’s claim that US crime statistics are only going up is false. Murder, other kinds of reported violent crime and reported property crime all dropped in 2023, according to preliminary statistics published by the FBI. Crime data expert Jeff Asher says that, if confirmed by final data, the roughly 13% decline in murder would be the single biggest one-year drop on record in US data dating back to 1960, while the roughly 6% decline in reported violent crime would be one of the biggest on record; reported violent crime declined in every quadrant of the country, in cities of all sizes and in in rural communities. In addition, as Asher has pointed out, partial urban data for early 2024 shows that the number of murders again declined sharply in the first two months of this year. 

“Trump’s implication that the crime rate is only going up is false,” said Anna Harvey, a political science professor and director of the Public Safety Lab at New York University. “During 2020, the last year of the Trump presidency, violent crime rose dramatically. The murder rate, for example, increased by almost 30%, the largest one-year increase on record. But violent crime has been falling during the Biden presidency.”

As always with crime data, there are caveats. Not all crimes are reported, not every US community experienced declines in murder or violent crime in 2023, and not all categories of crime declined nationally. The key exception was a significant increase in big-city auto thefts – a problem fueled by a spike in thefts of certain car models that social media posts showed were easy to steal.

Still, given the declines in 2023 in national numbers on everything from murder to rape to aggravated assault to robbery to arson, there is no basis for Trump’s claim that US crime statistics are only going up. In fact, Asher told CNN, the available data suggests that the national rates of murder and overall violent crime were lower in 2023 than they were under Trump in 2020, when the country experienced social and economic upheaval on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The available evidence from the FBI suggests reported violent crime has fallen since 2020 including a large decline in murder over that span. The reported violent crime rate was likely at or below 2019’s level in 2023, while the national murder rate was likely slightly above 2019’s level but well below 2020’s level,” Asher, co-founder of the firm AH Datalytics, said in an email.

Like other crime, reported violent crime in the US has plummeted since the heights of the early 1990s. The preliminary data suggests that the rate of reported violent crime in 2023 was either the lowest since the late 1960s or close to it.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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