Donald Trump

Trump Is Wrong About Crime in Chicago (and His Voters Are Wrong About Crime Everywhere Else Too)

Trump voters overwhelmingly believe crime is getting worse, even though it's far better than it used to be. The president is only feeding that misconception.


Amid a flurry of executive orders this week, President Donald Trump has been threatening to take some sort of federal action intended to curb violence in Chicago.

It started Wednesday, when Trump tweeted that he would "send in the Feds" if law enforcement in Chicago "doesn't fix the horrible 'carnage' going on."

Trump was asked about that tweet during Wednesday's interview with ABC News' David Muir, who asked the president to clarify what he meant by "send in the feds."

After first indulging his newfound fascination with the word "carnage" (an actual quote from the interview: "It's carnage. You know, in my speech I got tremendous—from certain people the word carnage. It is carnage. It's horrible carnage"), Trump responded with another vague promise, or threat, of federal law enforcement action in the Windy City.

"I want them to fix the problem. You can't have thousands of people being shot in a city, in a country that I happen to be president of," Trump said, adding that "maybe it's okay if somebody else is president" and imploring the city's officials to "get tougher and stronger and smarter" but without really answering the question of what federal action he would propose.

Without wanting to downplay the seriousness of the violence in Chicago, it's necessary to inject some facts into all this talk of "tougher and stronger" policies, especially if Trump really is considering some sort of federal intervention in Chicago.

For starters, yes, there are a lot of murders in Chicago. More than 300 of them during the first half of 2016, according to newly released data from the FBI. But there's also a lot of people in Chicago, which means that the murder rate actually is not one of the worst in the country.

That dishonor, at least for the first six months of 2016, belongs to St. Louis, Missouri, which had more than 27 murders for every 100,000 residents during that time. That's more than double Chicago's murder rate of 11.6 per 100,000 residents. Both Orlando, Florida, and Baltimore, Maryland, had rates above 20-per-100,000 during the same period, the FBI data shows.

Yes, Chicago is a violent city, but it's hardly a unique case requiring a unique response.

Further, "the feds" are already there. As Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, pointed out in a commentary for the Wall Street Journal, Chicago's police department already works with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on a regular basis.

Is Trump talking about sending in the National Guard? That would be unprecendented and, MacDonald says, a pretty terrible idea. "Doing so would require the declaration of a national or state emergency," she writes. "However gruesome the bloodshed, there is little precedent for mobilizing the National Guard to quell criminal gang violence."

Trump is wrong about the level of violance in Chicago, but all his talk of "carnage" and "tougher" law enforcement responses feeds directly into his political base and their view of the world.

Unfortunately, that view is as wrong as Trump's.

I attended a fascinating forum at the Cato Institute on Wednesday evening that included a discussion of polling data from Democracy Fund Voice, a nonpartisan organization that conducted a series of polls and sit-down interviews with voters during the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. Their polling data shows interesting divides between Trump voters and non-Trump voters on several issues, including immigration, race, and general views of American society. It's potentially helpful as policymakers on all sides attempt to understand what feelings are animating Trump's political followers.

Patrick Ruffini, co-founder of Echelon Insights and one of the members of the research team who presented the data on Wednesday, mentioned that he was particularly struck by the degree to which Trump voters believe crime is getting worse.

(Update: Ruffini reaches out to provide some addition context on these numbers: "The numbers for people believing crime and lawlessness has gotten worse rather than better are 63-14 for all voters, 79-8 for Trump supporters, and 51-21 for Clinton supporters. The larger point is that pretty much everyone believes it's gotten worse as a problem, not just Trump supporters. Even Clinton supporters agreed by more than 2-to-1.")

That tracks with what other researchers have found. In the two weeks before the election, the Pew Research Center surveyed voters on a variety of topics and found the electorate to be weary and pessimistic.

On the question of crime, a majority of all voters believed it had increased since 2008. Among Trump voters, a stunning 78 percent held the belief that crime had gotten worse during the Obama administration, compared with only 17 who believed it had decreased.

Pew Research Center

The truth is that violent crime fell by 19 percent and property crime fell by 23 percent between 2008 and 2015, according to official statistics maintained by the FBI and collected from more than 18,000 jurisdictions around the country. Homicides by gun are down more than 40 percent since the early 1990s, when they peaked. There's been an uptick in crime nationally over the past two years, but that hardly measures up against the long-term trend.

I don't know what to do about this gap between perception and reality (aside from pointing out the facts, as above) that seems to affect voters of all stripes but is a particularly potent element of Trump's support.

I do know, however, that having a president use his bully pulpit to perpetuate falsehoods about violence and crime is unlikely to improve the situation—and sending the National Guard into Chicago won't, either.

NEXT: Trump, Twitter, and the Revolt of the Permanent Government

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  1. there is little precedent for mobilizing the National Guard to quell criminal gang violence

    precedent aside, if you’re going to declare war then troops seem more appropriate than militarizing the police.

    1. Can’t tell because the link is behind the WSJ paysall, but does MacDonald mention the use of the NG in Puerto Rico, where it’s been used off and on for years as an additional police force for drug related violence?

      1. Open a private/incognito window and paste the link. Gets you past all the idiot news site pay walls.

        1. Except, apparently, WSJ. Touche.

        2. For some browsers opening an incognito link nixes the adblock.

  2. You guys are going to have to get better at your clickbait… using “Trump is Wrong About [Insert any number of things]” as the headline just isn’t going to cut it – that market is already saturated.

    1. Can I propose “Lobster Girl reacts to X, pics after the cut”?

      I know I’d click that bait!

      1. Don’t you mean bate to that click?

        1. That’s step 2, obviously.

    2. Reason doesn’t have Hillary to kick around anymore.

      1. ^that is comedy gold

  3. It is absolutely carnage. What part of this is wrong? I’ll just leave this here.

    Most of these arguments are just strawmen.

    And Trump going after Chicago, specifically, is because Rahm Emanuel is such a reprehensible sack of shit that practically nobody is going to want to side with him.

    1. Is Trump talking about sending in the National Guard?

      I haven’t seen any evidence of this. Absolutely nobody thinks of the National Guard when they hear ‘The Feds.’

      1. Can the President even mobilize the National Guard for a local emergency?

      2. Yeah. I’d assume FBI as more logical in context.

  4. I believe we’re at the early stage of a new rise in crime. That doesn’t mean that America is on a long, upward trend which counters the long downward trend. But I believe when the stats are in over the next few years, 2015 and on is going to see a notable uptick in crime.

    I have no doubt that some of this (maybe most of it) will be highly localized (yes, to Blue Cities), but it seems to me that the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost as a result of social experimentation we’ve seen over the last few years.

    1. It’s even more localized than that. If you look at the homicide map of Chicago, Pareto applies with a vengeance.

    2. Social experimentation? Crime increases follow several decades of war. It happened after Vietnam and it’s happening now.

  5. Further, “the feds” are already there. As Heather McDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, pointed out in a commentary for the Wall Street Journal, Chicago’s police department already works with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on a regular basis.

    I hope/think this is Rohrschach on the part of the President. You can certainly hear echos in the replies of Alderman and The Mayor who say things like “We want more community outreach and public housing, we’ve asked for expanded interaction with the FBI and DEA, but we don’t want the National Guard, that would make The City look bad.”

    ‘Cuz it’s not about the murders, it’s about only getting free shit from the government and optics.

    1. So many things about the Chicago issue strikes me as strange. In Mexico they know all about it. Its called Drug violence. They don’t call it gun violence because its not. I am a supporter of gun laws but the gangs are never going to obey any laws so what difference does it make. All you hear from the Alderman is we need jobs and education. Really? Why would a gang banger making 1,000 per day selling drugs take a job for 12.00 per hour? Why would any businessman open a business where he/she is orders of magnitude more likely to be robbed or burglarized? This is all about drug money. I am so tired of hearing about the FBI and DEA working in Chicago. Where have you ever heard of a 4 Billion company that can operate out of one city in complete secrecy? Trump is right to start by stopping the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants at the border. I am not saying that all the drug dealers are illegals but I will tell you there is a bunch of them and they are the most trusted by the Sinaola Cartel. Guess how much warehouse space, people and trucks it takes to run a 4 billion business? Chicago and the feds are doing nothing. But if they wine enough about social issues they can get them some more of that Federal money to blow on crap that wont fix anything!

      1. Then stop the War on Drugs.

  6. I will say, however, that I’m going to enjoy the pro-gun control media have to explain to Trump, slowly, using statistics and graphs, why America is safer than ever.

    1. This is why Trump is a genius. Everyone on the left hates him no matter WHAT he says, and reflexively takes the opposite position. It exposed their hypocrisy

      – Trump says he won’t accept the election results and that it’s rigged. OUTRAGE! … then the left does that exact thing after losing

      – Trump says violence is out of control…. OUTRAGE! … oh wait it’s the left that lies abut gun violence


  7. I don’t know about your facts about crime in Chicago – my wife, Morgan Fairchild, lives in Chicago in one of my many magnificent lakefront mansions and she tells me she gets murdered at least twice a week. She says crime is just a tremendous problem there, yuge problem, incredible problem. Believe me, it’s a problem.

    1. I think there’s huge yuge potential in the character you’re creating here, which I humbly submit should be called Trumphy.

    2. +1 Powerlifting while surfing

  8. “It’s carnage. You know, in my speech I got tremendous?from certain people the word carnage. It is carnage. It’s horrible carnage”),

    Fun fact: Trump is a big fan of Jim Ross.

    1. Crusty from the top rope!

    2. Is that the guy who’s always painting happy little trees?

      1. No, I am pretty sure he is that rapper who just bought a Checkers franchise.

      2. Please remove that vague recollection of Bob Ross from your memory.

  9. What specifically was he wrong about? The writing is a little vague.

  10. After first indulging his newfound fascination with the word “carnage” (an actual quote from the interview: “It’s carnage. You know, in my speech I got tremendous?from certain people the word carnage. It is carnage. It’s horrible carnage”)

    As a New Yorker, Trump ought to be well aware that the only way to fight Carnage is with Spider-Man.

    1. C’mon, Spidey had to team up with Venom to get him the first time around.

  11. Those aren’t real murders in Chicago…they’re Alternative Killings

  12. As this is posted….

    6 Shot at Memorial For Victim of Chicago Gun Violence…..22845.html

  13. After first indulging his newfound fascination with the word “carnage”

    “Word a Day” toilet paper and renewed commitment to wiping rather than just having SIV lick his asshole clean,

  14. Note: not the real amsoc and am squatting on his name. I need to make a new email for a different handle.

    This is why i can’t stand this site at times. Eric makes this claim “Trump is wrong about the level of violance in Chicago”.

    Where exactly is trump wrong about the level of violence in chicago? I can’t find that in here. Did he compare it in that tweet and say it was higher than all other cities?

    For god sakes do your homework. Journalists are lazy.

    1. The chicago tribune used the exact numbers in trump’s tweet. I “fact checked” lol these numbers…..story.html

      “As of early Monday, at least 228 people had been shot in Chicago so far this year, a 5.5 percent increase from the 216 shot in the same period time last year. There have been at least 42 homicides, up 23.5 percent from the 34 homicides from the same period in 2016.”

    2. Trump said horrible “carnage”

      First, scare quotes mean he’s wrong.
      Second, this level of violence is officially measured* as “a spot of bad”, not “horrible”. It would have to go through “rather hot”, “persistently bothersome” and “hold on there, dear chap” before it reaches “horrible”.

      *source: my rectum, citations available on request

  15. I live near St. Louis, on the Illinois side, and would rather walk through the streets of STL any day compared to Chicago. Don’t get me wrong, both options are not safe.

    1. Sadly, the risk completely depends on what part of Chicago you are in. There are plenty of maps of Chicago which plot shooting/homicide frequencies. If you stay out of certain neighborhoods, you are far more likely to be safe.
      There are certain neighborhoods with 0 homicides plotted in them for 2016. Needless to say, those are fairly safe areas compared to, say, Austin/Engelwood/Garfield Park.

    2. Are you near the giant ketchup bottle?

  16. The truth is that violent crime fell by 19 percent and property crime fell by 23 percent between 2008 and 2015

    Meanwhile murders spiked almost 11% in a single year, leading an overall 4% increase in violent crimes. How did these ignorant rednecks ever get the idea that crime was going up?

    1. Were they carnage murders or just murder murders?

      1. For some reason, “carnage murder” makes me think of murder with a car, and now I have to go pirate a copy of Carmageddon for nostalgia.

        1. “The Cars That Ate Paris” would make a good double feature.

    2. But crime is getting better everywhere else. It’s right there in the title!

    3. A third of the murder increase was driven by upticks in just ten larger cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Nashville, Kansas City, Missouri, St Louis, and Oklahoma City.


      And this:

      Black men and women face much less violence today than they did in the early 1990s, belying Donald Trump’s claim last week that “our African American communities are in the worst shape they’ve ever been … ever. Ever. Ever.”

      Whoops… not what I’m hearing from… yeah, pretty much every progressive everywhere.

      1. A third of the murder increase was driven by upticks in just ten larger cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Nashville, Kansas City, Missouri, St Louis, and Oklahoma City.

        What does that have to do with anything? Are you somehow less dead if you die in one of those cities? Why is every new reason writer they hire dumber than the last one?

        1. that was written by the author in the guardian article posted by Pat(pm).

    4. It appears we need an agreed upon definition of ‘carnage’ or else we’ll never be able to determine what level of murders per 100,000 is okay.

  17. A caveat – some cities have been misreporting or under reporting violent crimes for years. Violent crime is still mostly down of course, as is gun violence.

    It’s remarkable to me that if only to prove Donald Trump wrong, the media would actually report on the facts. Chicago is a dem stronghold, so they obviously won’t stand Trump threatening that place.

    But even a symbolic gesture can have meaning. Chicago is a corrupt city with lots of murders. There could be thousands of people there who were hoping for some definitive action on their ailing city, and it might be music to their ears to hear the president heeding their cause.

    1. Chicago at least has played fast and loose with stats on assaults and such, but dead bodies are a bit harder to hide

      1. Unfortunately, CPD has been caught doing just that. See:…..ime-stats/
        (Finding 21 additional deaths which should have been considered murders/homicide in the statistics in 2014 alone. Indeed, in 2014, according to Malony, there were a total of 797 in 5078 “death investigations” in 2014 alone.)
        So yes, murders/homicides have been miraculously transformed so they don’t count against the stats.

        1. They can still vote though.

  18. I think you’re understating the problem. Yes, Chicago only has a really-high number of murders per capita, not the highest. But that’s because a lot of people that get shot there don’t die.

    Ever since the CDC realized that gun violence spread like a viral illness, they’ve worked on weakening bullets (mostly replacing metal slugs with rubber ones) and then injecting them into the bloodstream of city residents to help them build a natural immunity to gunshots. Of course, had they been allowed to study the epidemic of gun violence, we could have the bullet vaccine a decade ago and saved countless more lives. Goddamn the GOP.

    Anyway, it’s helped a lot with survival rates, but it would be better to prevent the shootings in the first place.

    1. Of course, had they been allowed to study the epidemic of gun violence, we could have the bullet vaccine a decade ago and saved countless more lives.

      What, and give everybody autism? No thanks.

      1. Barron Trump jokes aren’t funny, asshole.

    2. Putting the sarcasm to one side, there is a lot of truth in the statement that a large number of people who get shot in Chicago don’t die. Personally, I give a lot of credit to the medical professionals serving Chicago. The quality and quantity of experience in dealing with trauma is such that the US Armed forces have used Chicago hospitals for training their medical professionals and/or corpsemen. You read that correctly – Cook County’s Stroger Hospital has one of the country’s highest rates of “penetrating injuries” like gunshot wounds and stabbings, making it the ideal environment for military training since 2014.…..-u-s-navy/

      1. Also, the lack of gun ranges means that the gang guys can’t shoot very well.

  19. Saw this as a comment on the NBC site posted above:

    Why are people shooting lions, gorillas, elephants considered “violence by people”


    People who shoot and kill other is considered “gun violence”

  20. I think the average suburban Trump voter is responding to the greatly increased use of hours of local news that shows gun violence as “breaking news” virtually everyday. Maybe the stats say otherwise but the media’s “if it bleeds, it leads” would cause many casual viewers to conclude the thugs are out of control.

    1. I think they are responding to actual trends. 24 hour news has been around for 30 years.

  21. Trump voters overwhelmingly believe crime is getting worse, even though it’s far better than it used to be.

    There’s been an uptick in crime nationally over the past two years, but that hardly measures up against the long-term trend.

    If someone loses 50 pounds over 10 years, and then gains 10 pounds in a year, it’s feeble sophistry to say their weight is “getting better” because of the “long-term trend.”

    Also note that Reason is very selective about “long-term trends.” Police abuse is way down compared to 50 years ago, so I guess nobody should get exercised about any recent examples, huh?

  22. Let’s talk about Chicago. 2016 was an AWFUL year in terms of some key crime statistics, easily the worst since 1997
    Final 2016 Totals for Chicago from
    Total Shot: 4379 (includes homicides)
    Total Homicides: 798
    In only 18.5% of these cases was a suspect even charged with homicide (see clearance rate calculation). The comparable number for 2015 was 509 homicides.

    To put it in context, in 2016, even by the Chicago Police Department’s count (which is notorious for undercounting), Chicago had more homicides than both New York and Los Angeles combined. There are a lot of bad things happening on the streets of Chicago. The police have dramatically reduced their presence in terms of the number of stops. Between the new contact card requirement from the ACLU settlement to the feeling their own leadership will not back them, it is clear that folks are now thinking before getting out of the squad car to confront the local drug dealers, etc. The discussion with the police detective here is particularly interesting:…..32034.html
    (“Be careful. Don’t be so aggressive out there. Think of your family before you go out there and do something. Policing has changed. If you don’t change with it, you’re going to lose your job.”)

    So yes, there is a problem in Chicago.

    1. Homicide Numbers 2016:

      City of Chicago says: 762
      HeyJackAss Says: 798
      Chicago Coroner’s Office: 812

      It’s almost like the City’s numbers are being intentionally manipulated…

  23. Things can be getting worse and still be far better than it used to be. In fact, things are getting worse. Crime has risen over the last couple of years. It just hasn’t risen anywhere close to what it was in the 70s or 80s.

    Do yourself a favor Eric, don’t make fun of Trump voters until you learn some informal logic.

  24. The headline says Trump is wrong about crime in Chicago.

    The story doesn’t actually point out anything he said that is wrong. I see three actual facts: that there have been (i) 228 shootings in 2017 with (ii) 42 killings, (iii) up 24% from 2016.

    Those aren’t contradicted in the article. The rest is opinion (“carnage”, which doesn’t seem inappropriate given the number of shootings and killings) and speculation.

  25. He’s not that wrong about crime in Chicago. It’s terrible. Saying St. Louis is worse doesn’t change that.

    1. I agree.

      Comparing city crime stats also gets complicated because of raw totals and the vagaries of city boundaries. The city of St. Louis has a population of about 315k, roughly 10% of its MSA. Chicago has about 2.7 million, between 25% to 30% of its MSA. Murders tend to be concentrated in a few dangerous neighborhoods: here’s Chicago so far in 2017 –

      A city’s total calculated murder rate is really a combination of how dangerous the “really bad” areas are and how that’s balanced by safer areas. I’m not sure if the dangerous parts of Chicago are more dangerous than the dangerous parts of St. Louis. But the more dangerous parts of Chicago are sure as hell a lot more dangerous than Chicago as a whole.

      I don’t like his proposal to send in the Feds, but the problem is real.

  26. I wouldn’t threaten to make it a Federal issue. I’d keep reminding everyone is been a Democratic city for 60+ years. They own it, they need t come up with a solution that doesn’t involve the Fed Govt. or $$$$. Keep pushing them for a solution every time another kid gets shot and keep it out front. Send the DOJ in to investigate City Hall at the same time. While the CPD has plenty of issues, the lawyers in City Hall have a lot of blame too.

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  28. There are only 2 real solutions to solve crime in Chicago or anywhere

    1. Allow vetted, good citizens to carry concealed weapons (John Lott’s “More guns less crime proves this”)

    2. Blacks need to return to lifestyles which embrace:

    …Work ethic
    …Spiritual based family
    …Family with BOTH parents in the home (70% of black dads absent)
    …Willingness to obtain at least a GOOD HS education
    …Stop glorifying Niggah Rappers like Drake and NiggazWitAttitude, etc.

    FACTS at proves this

  29. Can we change the narrative and support the fact that police are better trained and possibly acting better towards citizens than ever? As evidence of that is a CDC report that police shoot blacks 3?4 times less today than they did in 1968, though they shoot all other racial groups at the same rate per million. And Chicago police also shoot citizenry 4?6x times less than the 1970s. There were 148 shootings by police in 1975, 25 in 2016. Why can’t the media trumpet facts like that?

    Sources (police represent .5% of shootings in Chicago)…..ntext=jclc (Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Spring 1982 Issue, p. 349? ? compare with HeyJackAss for shootings, the difference is 4-6x?) (CDC – 70% less killings of African Americans today by cops; same for all other races)

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