The Volokh Conspiracy

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Was Chicago's murder rate in 2016 'record setting,' as Trump suggested?


Police investigate a multiple-homicide scene in Chicago on Nov. 3. (Brian Jackson/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted last week:

But, as Michelle Ye Hee Lee (at The Post's Fact Checker blog) correctly points out, Chicago's homicide rate was higher in the early 1990s than it is now. (It was also higher in the 1970s.) For the exact homicide data, see here; Chicago's population was 2.78 million in 1990, and is estimated at 2.72 million in 2015, so the higher raw numbers of murders in 1990 to 1996 than in 2016 reflect higher rates as well. The 1970s peak was 970 (in 1974), and the 1990s peak was 943 (in 1992), well above the 762 in 2016. (This data relates to what the police view as criminal homicides and doesn't include justifiable homicides, such as in self-defense, not "murders" as such; but the 762 count in 2016 isn't "murders" either, because the determination of whether something is murder or manslaughter will often not be made even tentatively until the suspected killer is caught, or even after that.)

The 2016 rate is appallingly high, and the highest in 20 years. But it's not accurate, I think, to label it "record setting."