Donald Trump

Trump Says U.S. Murder Rate at Highest Level in 45 Years. That's Not Even Close to Being True

Even with the murder rate ticking upwards over the past two years, we are still at a level that's less than half of the peak murder rate over the past 45 years.

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Andrew Harrer/CNP/AdMedia/Newscom

President Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed the murder rate in the United States is "the highest it's been in, I guess, 45-47 years."

"I'd say that in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn't like to tell it like it is," Trump said during a morning meeting with law enforcement officials from around the country.

Yes, everyone should be surprised by that claim, but not for the reason the president suggested.

They should be surprised because it is completely false.

According to the FBI—which tracks crime statistics in the country, not "the media," as Trump suggested—the murder rate in the United States is near an all-time low. According to the FBI's 2015 crime report, there were 15,696 murders in the United States that year, which translates to a murder rate of 4.9 per 100,000 people.

That's the highest murder rate in six years, not 45 years.

In fact, even with the murder rate ticking upwards over the past two years, we are still at a level that's less than half of the peak murder rate during the past 45 years, according to the FBI's statistics, collected from more than 18,000 jurisdictions around the country.

Here's the facts. Forty-seven years ago, in 1970, the murder rate was 7.9 per 100,000 people. The rate climbed steadily throughout the 1970s and reached a peak of 10.2 per 100,000 people in 1980. Murder rates dipped throughout the mid-1980s before rising again at the end of the decade to a second peak of 9.8 per 100,000 in 1991.

FiveThirtyEight

From that second peak, the murder rate steadily declined until it reached a low point of 4.4 homicides per 100,000 people in 2014, before the uptick in 2015. Data for the full year of 2016 is not yet available, but statistics from the first half of 2016 suggest that the murder rate might have climbed again last year (though certainly not to levels that come anywhere near the peaks in 1980 and 1991).

The slight increase in violent crime during 2015 can be attributed mostly to seven urban areas—Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.—that accounted for half of the national increase. It's not even true for Trump to argue that crime is increasing in cities, since only 25 of the nation's 100 largest cities saw an overall increase in violent crime in 2015, according to the FBI.

It's not just the murder rate that has fallen recently. All forms of violent crime are down 19 percent, and property crime fell by 23 percent, between 2008 and 2015.

Trump is wrong about this.

Still, being wrong about crime has helped fuel Trump's rise from reality TV star to leader of the free world.

At the Republican National Convention in July, Trump said the nation was experiencing "a moment of crisis" caused by "violence in our streets and chaos in our communities."

"Crime is out of control and rapidly getting worse," he tweeted in July.

And he's been spouting off about the murder rate being at a 45-year high since at least late October.

"We have the highest murder rate in this country in 45 years. You don't hear that from these people. They don't want to talk about it. The highest murder rate in the United States in 45 years," he said at a rally in Iowa on October 28, according to The Washington Post. He repeated the assertion the next day at an event in Phoenix and the day after that at a rally in Las Vegas.

As I wrote last week, many voters seem to share this misguided view that crime is reaching record levels. 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, shows that 63 percent of all voters The numbers for people believing crime and believe crime is getting worse, while only 14 percent say it's getting better. Among self-identified Trump supporters, the gap was 79-8, compared to 51-21 for Clinton supporters. "Pretty much everyone believes it's gotten worse as a problem," says Patrick Ruffini, co-founder of Echelon Insights and one of the members of the Democracy Fund Voice research team.

Voters being ill-informed is nothing new, of course. More worrying is the fact that Trump, having used this story about rampant lawlessness to get himself elected, might actually believe the falsehoods he's been spreading and use this inaccurate picture of the nation's crime rates to implement policy.

What might he do? Reason's Jacob Sullum has explained in detail why Trump's favored solution, "stop and frisk," makes no sense even in the cities where violence is on the rise. "Promiscuous use of that tactic, which involves detaining and patting down pedestrians who strike police as suspicious," Sullum wrote last year, "causes understandable resentment among the young black and Latino men who bear the brunt of it, and there's little evidence that it curtails violent crime."

On Tuesday, Trump indicated a willingness to target state lawmakers who have been standing up to law enforcement groups in an effort to reform civil asset forfeiture, a process by which the government can seize property from innocent civilians without convicting them of a crime (or sometimes without even getting an indictment). It's an element of law enforcement that screams for reform, since it creates a whole series of perverse incentives for cops.

Having a president stomp on those reform efforts in the name of "being tough on crime" would be bad for the country.

Still, If Trump wants to implement policies that will take the murder rate to a 45-year low (a very achievable goal, considering how close we already are to that point), he could scale back the federal war on drugs and legalize marijuana. That would help eliminate some of the violence caused by the black market for drugs—even though an accurate count is hard to pin-down, between 5 percent and 25 percent of all homicides are drug-related, according to the CDC.

None of this is to say that that crime isn't a serious problem in many places. We don't know yet whether the recent uptick in violent crime is a blip or an indication of a new trend. If the latter, perhaps policy changes will be necessary to extend the decades-long decline.

Those changes, if needed, should be implemented thoughtfully and—this should go without saying, but apparently it must be said—should be based on the reality of crime in the United States in 2017, not the fevered dystopian dreams of a reality television star.

NEXT: Prof. Michael McConnell on Judge Neil Gorsuch and executive power

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  1. Clearly he means the cumulative amount of people murdered over the past 45 years is greater than the number of people killed in a single year 45 years ago.

    -Sean Spicer, the hardest working man in show business

    1. Okay, that wasn’t bad.

    2. He was clearly referring to the entire Universe

    3. My last month paycheck was for 11000 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour… This is what I do

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  2. Trump is killin’ me!

  3. Facts schmacts. The important thing is that I am scared and I want swift and brutal government action to make me feel safer.

    1. You can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true.

      1. … and many that aren’t.

  4. He’s joking!

  5. While I’m not a fan of all the misleading crap he’s throwing around, it doesn’t seem any worse than the bullshit the left has been slinging for 8 years. What goes around comes around.

    1. It’s probably less bad in effect because it’s such obvious bullshit in cases like this.

      But it’s stupid and annoying and both sides doing it only makes things even worse.

      1. IOW, Obaaaama!

    2. So you didn’t criticize “the left” during the last 8 years, just as you are giving the right a pass now, yes?

      Or are you expressing blatant hypocrisy and treating it like a point?

      1. Criticize both. however it is fair to point out the utter hypocrisy of people holding Trump to a far higher standard than they have held Obama, or even Hillary for that matter.

  6. “Trump indicated a willingness to target state lawmakers who have been standing up to law enforcement groups in an effort to reform civil asset forfeiture…”

    This BS was debunked in the earlier thread. Once again, can’t keep it in your pants when already have a legitimate criticism.

    1. Debunked? You mean a bunch of pants-wetting apologists decided that the comment was a joke and cucked anyone who thought otherwise? You guys are going to have a helluva 4 years with this guy.

    2. You forgot to call anyone who disagrees a CUCK and a COZMO FAGGIT. Zero point.

  7. Always worth mentioning, locales have a strong incentive to lie about their murder rate:

    http://www.chicagomag.com/Chic…..ime-rates/

    1. Toxicology tests showed she had heroin and alcohol in her system, but not enough to kill her. All signs pointed to foul play.

      I wonder what gave it away? Was it the wire tied around her ankles and the gag still on her dead body?

  8. After years of decline, homicides in Chicago have been on the rise and exceeded 760 last year, the worst in two decades. Violence remained stubbornly high in January as homicides and shootings kept at about the same levels as a year earlier.

      1. If these 760 people in Chicago don’t matter, why even talk about school shootings or terrorist attacks?

        1. Someone said they don’t matter?

          1. I think Reason has reported on it. But in the general media, who cares about Chicago? These stories just don’t sell copy.

            I do not know if Trump genuinely cares about these inner cities, but he won’t be the biggest hypocrite of them all. 8 years of hope and change…

            1. Yeah, that’s true. And some credit is due to Trump for addressing it at all (albeit in his unique and blundering way).

            2. The media care only insofar as they can use it to call for gun confiscation.

              1. And that’s easier to do if you keep the threat of guns vague and general, rather than accurately reporting where and to whom most gun violence happens.

        2. You failed to mention that this is a Prohibition War. Not the first time Chicago has had one.

    1. Yes, and the article specifically states that most of the recent increases in homicide rates are down to significant increases in Chicago and a few other cities.

  9. I’m not a Trump fan by any means, but during the campaign, he made a “45 year” murder stat claim that (even) Politifact rated “Mostly True”: http://www.politifact.com/trut…..ers-45-ye/

    It’s hard to know if he made the same claim here, because Eric doesn’t supply the whole quote.

    1. Oh shit. That’s a good point. Is he just talking about the ‘increase in murder’ or the cumulative number?

      1. Screw it. Trump doesn’t even know what he’s saying

        1. Trump doesn’t even know what he’s saying

          I believe that to be literally true. Most of what he says is stream of consciousness anyway, and in all likelihood he bounces between talking about the “murder rate” and the “increase in murder” and using the terms interchangeably without a second thought. He does that kind of shit all the time. It’s one of the reasons why decoding his word salad is so hard to do.

          Although as others have pointed out, the full, actual quote would be helpful.

          1. Trump knows exactly what he is saying. He’s spewing a sales pitch non-stop. Facts don’t matter, he’s pushing a selling point. I work in B2B technology (engineer) and travel with sales people to customers. They all do the exact same thing. Everyone knows it…I cringe through it all….but it all works out in the end.

            People need to stop focusing on what Trump says and try to figure out what he is selling.
            1) is he selling increase law enforcement and impact on our civil liberties
            2) is he selling investment and a ‘re-do’ of the inner cities

            Because on the stump he repeated talked about 2 and was supposedly why Ben Carson is being brought into his cabinet. 2 has potential to be quite good.

    2. A full quote would be nice or a link to the full text of whatever he was saying. I’m just not going to buy the characterizations here without proof anymore.

      1. Why would manipulating statistics like that be any better? The point is that crime is low not high.

        1. I guess it would be better in that it wouldn’t be a complete fabrication. But it would still be deceptive and manipulative. Police boosters tried the same tricks in spinning the “war on cops” narrative.

        2. If you read the politifact, they rated it ‘mostly true’, because he was referring to the ‘increase in crime’ year-over-year. So, the difference is has the crime rate increased the most it has, year-over-year, for 45 years or was he just making the stupid remark that the cumulative crime rate is higher than it has been in the past 45 years.

          I’m not saying that Trump, honestly, understands the subtle differences in the statement, but there is a difference between the two statements

          1. Sure, it’s true. But true facts are frequently used to mislead and deceive people.

            1. “true facts are frequently used to mislead and deceive people”

              Are these those ‘alternative facts’, because that statement doesn’t make a lick of sense

              1. It’s just another way of saying lies lie in statistics. What’s hard to understand about that? Just because the numbers are true doesn’t mean the way you are using them isn’t manipulative and dishonest.

              2. No, I mean use of statistics to make things sound worse than they are. If the murder rate has gone down for 20 years running (for example) and one year they rise a bit, it is true that the rate has increased more than it has for 20 years. But just saying that doesn’t provide useful information about the actual murder rate, and is apt to make people think that something bad is happening even though it probably isn’t, even though it’s a true statement.

          2. Yea interesting. I think people in general have to be really thinking of how they word things as the way something said can totally change context.

            This is why i am not a fan of opinion polls. You can drive the conclusion you want with wording

            1. Also most people get easily confused and jump to the intuitive but wrong conclusion when math beyond adding and subtracting is involved. When most people can’t answer these three question do you think they are going to understand the differences here.

              1. #3 is somewhat ambiguous.

                1. Not really, while frogs and toads may be implied by the pond and the lily pads but they aren’t required.

          3. I know its true, but its using a truth in a different context. If there were 0 crimes for the last 5 years and then 1 this year it would be the biggest increase in crimes in over 5 years! Of course that was only 1 crime committed and if say 10 years go there were 100 crimes a year committed it would be a dishonest to use the biggest increase in years statement to justify policy changes.

      2. Found the full text-Trump’s incorrect on this one.

    3. The Grinch said that the full quote showed Trump was wrong.

      Also, there’s a direct quote in the article from an October rally where he explicitly states that the murder rate is the highest it’s been in 45 years. So he’s made the argument before.

      Nonetheless, I expect his fanboys to spin it however much they need to somehow make him look right. The right-wing equivalent to the mental gymnastics the left engaged in to defend Obama at every turn.

      1. The right-wing equivalent to the mental gymnastics the left engaged in to defend Obama at every turn.

        Trump is pretty much the “right wing” version of Obama, and his cultists are every bit as irritating, stupid, and dishonest as Obama’s cultists were/ are. Fuck them all.

        1. Trump really is “hope and change” in a very different package.

          1. We can turn this country around if we believe in ourselves.

    4. If you read the Politifact article you see how it’s narrowly, technically true. His claim was about the rate of *increase*, not the actual murder rate. There was a 10.8% increase from 2014 to 2015. That rate of increase was the largest since 1970 to 1971 increase of 11.1%.

      Of course that increase from 2014 to 2015 was on a much smaller murder rate than it was then. The actual murder rate is still near the lowest it’s been in 45 years. 2016 might also be up, but that information isn’t available yet nor is a one or two year uptick unusual in the greater scheme of things. It’s a trend to be watched, but not one to panic about.

  10. The writer is talking about the rate per thousand.

    Hasnt the population increased significantly in 45 years ? Maybe thats what the Trumpster is going on about.

    I’m too jaded to care.

  11. The writer is talking about the rate per thousand.

    Hasnt the population increased significantly in 45 years ? Maybe thats what the Trumpster is going on about.

    I’m too jaded to care.

  12. The writer is talking about the rate per thousand.

    Hasnt the population increased significantly in 45 years ? Maybe thats what the Trumpster is going on about.

    I’m too jaded to care.

    1. Triple-post offense.

      /obscurebasketballreference

  13. The fakts are in.

  14. Good article Eric. No hysterics imo and heavy on facts

  15. A nitpick

    ” It’s not even true for Trump to argue that crime is increasing in cities, since only 25 of the nation’s 100 largest cities saw an overall increase in violent crime in 2015, according to the FBI.”

    It would be true as it does apply to at least some cities though Trump should be specific about it.

    Cities is kind of vague because there are way more than 100 cities so for your point it kind of depends of what sample one uses….why not top 5 or top 10 or top 25 for instance instead of the 100? Depending on what metric you yourself uses then it could be true or false

    1. IIRC something like 21 of the largest 25 cities saw an increase in 2016 over 2015 (or maybe it was 2015 over 2014). In any case, in a fairly large number of the largest cities violent crime is increasing.

      1. But increasing from what? after a twenty year decline, a one or two year uptick isn’t necessarily something to get all worked up about. As mentioned by others above if the number gets low enough even a small uptick becomes a large year over year increase.

        1. This is the thing with stats. They can be used in misleading ways even if technically true.

        2. Crime went down because of the police use of force against Black criminals and an increase in the Black abortion rate. The Incarceration rates aren’t up. Since the Communist Obama Administration stopped enforcing the rule of law crime has gone up. BLM burning down cities 2017 the left will burn down America.

          1. Is this a parody account or are you for real?

  16. Maybe he meant Four-to-Five years.

  17. Maybe Trump is counting all the children DeVos will murder.

    1. How many childen have the Clintons sacrificed?

      1. Hi, Janet.

        Prepare for healthy doses of sarcasm around here.

  18. I’m beginner to guess that the reason we were all so surprised to see Trump run for President (while he seemed to think that it was the most natural thing in the world) is that the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Trumps swapped places at some point. Earth-2 really went to hell at some point after the Japanese bought America and let all the Mexican rape gangs in…

  19. Maybe the Middle East should ban travel from Chicago.

  20. “I was misquoted! Dishonest journalists. Sad!”

    1. They’re terrible. Nobody likes them.

  21. According to the FBI?which tracks crime statistics in the country, not “the media,” as Trump suggested?the murder rate in the United States is near an all-time low.

    *Trump voice* This would be the same FBI that let Crooked Hillary off scott free. You’re going to trust them?! SAD! *Trump voice off*

  22. In fact, even with the murder rate ticking upwards over the past two years, we are still at a level that’s less than half of the peak murder rate during the past 45 years, according to the FBI’s statistics, collected from more than 18,000 jurisdictions around the country.

    That’s just because the FBI isn’t counting the thousands of people who died in phantom terror massacres!

  23. I’m reading “Love goes to building on fire: five years in New York that changed music forever” by Will Hermes.

    There I was, on page 238, Will is writing about the opening night of Studio 54 in 1977:

    “On opening night, the first song played was “Devil’s Gun” by the Detroit R&B outfit CJ & Co., a giddy funk jam with the reprise ” FEE-FIE-FOE – FUM.” The crush outside pretty quickly became impenetrable . Bianca Jagger made it in, Mick didn’t (Keith Richards , out bail from his Toronto bust and coming off a rehab stint was laying low in New Jersey).

    Donald Trump pushed through the crowd. Frank Sinatra was SOL, ditto Henry Winkler – The Fonz!!!

    1. We learned it from Yoo!

    2. Torture and starting war without congressional approval >>>>> than wall and travel bans (trump hasn’t instituted a tariff)

  24. It’s easier to murder a journalst than to read a book!

  25. Last week in my town a White woman was gang raped in a parking lot by two Blacks who yelled racial slurs. If you wear a Trump hat you will be assaulted.

    Time to use deadly self defense.

    1. Two BLACKS are not much of a gang. Stop with the dog whistles already.

      1. Wow. I missed that comment last night. I think Janet got lost on her way to Stormfront.

  26. I’ve been murdered lots of times and it never gets reported.

  27. 1. Trump claims murder rate at 45yr high.
    2. Media rushes in to prove him wrong and show that murder is at a near all time low.
    3. Guess we don’t need gun control. Thank you liberal media!

  28. Reason should be ashamed. Trump was dead on, he was talking numbers NOT the rate. The journalist that wrote this is a lying sack of excrement.

    1. Murders peaked at 24,700 in 1991 while there were 15,696 in 2015.

      The murder rate is lower and the absolute number of murders is lower. Trend has been down for the last 25 years.

      http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

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