Since Donald J. Trump took the oath of office last week, his every word (and those of his deputies) has come under immense scrutiny. Headlines scream about lies, untruths, and gaffes. Twitter is a stream of supposed “reporters” calling out the new president with unprecedented vitriol and hubris from the press corps.
His latest claim that Philadelphia’s murder rate is rising, “Here in Philadelphia, murder has been steady — I mean — just terribly increasing.” – was deemed “false” by Politifact and attacked by the city’s mayor as untrue.
But the self-appointed fact-checkers and critics of the 45th President are dead wrong about the rising death toll on America’s streets, including Philadelphia.
Violent crime and especially murders are up precipitously over the past two years with no sign that the jump is slowing down.
We may be on the brink of another great crime wave and Trump’s right to call it out.
First, the facts. According to the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association (MCCA), violent crime on average for 61 of the largest police agencies is up in all categories (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault).
Per the FBI, murder rose by 11.8% in 2015 over 2014 nationally. In Philadelphia, murders jumped from 248 in 2014 to 280 in 2015 – a 13% increase. Last year, murders dipped to 277 victims, falling by 1% from the 2015 tally.
That may not even be accurate since some pending deaths may be revised to be classified as murders upon the city’s coroner investigation.
Furthermore, the Philadelphia PD’s own site (the potential source for Trump’s claim) actually shows an increase of 1% over 2015, off lower baseline counts.
Nationally, the picture is just as bleak in big cities. The MCCA found that murder increased 15.6% in 2015 over 2014 in 65 large jurisdictions it tracked (city and county police departments).
In 2016, murder was up according to the police chiefs by 10.8% over 2015’s elevated figures.
Equally as alarming as the murder spike, non-fatal shootings have jumped in many jurisdictions as well. Large police departments that track the number report these increased in 2015 by 14.3% in 31 jurisdictions and 7.5% in the 24 department’s areas that reported for 2016.
By including all cities over 250,000 residents in population, classed as Group I cities by the FBI for crime reporting purposes, the author finds a 10.4% increase in murders in 2016 reported by those 82 cities. That’s on top of the 2015 jump of 14.5% in murders in large cities that the FBI identified.
Preliminary 2016 data from the FBI (the agency reports final figures in the fall of the following year) confirms the rising violent crime trend in large cities. Across all jurisdictions, violent crime increased 5.3% but 9.7% in cities over a million residents in the first six months of the year. America’s million-plus cities saw murder spike a staggering 21.6% in the first half of 2016 over January to June 2015.
Critics may argue that Chicago’s grizzly death toll (762 murders in 2016, up 58% from 2015’s toll) accounts for the increase but New York City saw murder fall in 2016 by a few percent.
The trend line is undeniable, violent crime and murder are increasing year-on-year after a nearly unbroken fall for two decades.
In cities between a quarter million and half a million residents, violent crime increased 4.3% overall in the first half of 2016 over the first half of 2015, which was the first significant jump in decades. And murder increased another 6.1% in those jurisdictions.
And the City of Brotherly Love is already off to a bloody start in 2017, with murders up 37% in the first four weeks of the year.
So Trump’s right – murders are up, violent crime is on the rise and the lives lost to what he calls this “American carnage” are real. They are brothers, sons, and fathers (most victims are men of color) who had their dreams and their futures snuffed out.
Fact-checkers need to stop playing fast and loose with the facts – facts that seem to escape their ability to Google in their haste to prove the president “wrong” – and start asking what can be done to save lives on American streets.