WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump’s dark view of violent crime in America rests largely on a bogus claim: that the murder rate is higher than it’s been in nearly half a century. Actually, the murder rate is down sharply in that time, despite a recent spike.
Today, he told a meeting of sheriffs: “The murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right? Did you know that? Forty-seven years. I used to use that — I’d say that in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn’t tell it like it is.” He circled back to add: “The murder rate is the highest it’s been in, I guess, from 45 to 47 years.”
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THE FACTS: The murder rate in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available, is actually among the lowest in half a century. It stood at 4.9 murders per 100,000 people, a far cry from the rates in the 1970s, 1980s and most of the 1990s, when they were typically over 6 per 100,000, peaking at over 10 in 1980.
It’s true that 2015 saw one of the largest increases in decades, up 10 percent from 4.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2014, but even with that rise homicides are not on the order of what the country experienced in previous decades.
Trump has misrepresented crime statistics on several occasions. He stated last month that Philadelphia’s murder rate has been “terribly increasing” even though it dropped slightly last year. The city’s murder rate rose in the previous two years but remained substantially lower than in past decades.
He also incorrectly claimed that two people “were shot and killed” in Chicago during then-President Barack Obama’s farewell speech on Jan. 10. Although Chicago has experienced a surge in murders compared with previous decades, no one was fatally shot in Chicago that day, police records show, much less during Obama’s speech.