Is John Lewis’ 5th district ‘crime-infested,’ as Donald Trump says?

President-Elect Donald Trump’s Saturday tweets criticizing Rep. John Lewis also hit on a continuing issue for Atlanta residents: The city’s crime problems. 

The president-elect pegged the Fifth District, which Lewis  has represented in Congress for 30 years, as "crime-infested." 

Crime statistics are notoriously complex, and open to multiple interpretations. It’s difficult for criminologists and data scientists to get a grasp on whether crime is going up or down in a particular area, let alone politicians and journalists.

However, it is difficult to know the crime rate for a congressional district – crime data generally isn’t recorded, published or analyzed based on congressional boundaries. But there are general statistics that can be used to paint a broad picture. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation collects crime statistics from city, county and state law enforcement agencies through the national Uniform Crime Reports program, which was most recently updated last year to reflect numbers through 2015. 

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of that data found Atlanta’s violent crime rate -- 1,120 crimes per 100,000 residents  -- landed Atlanta at No. 14 nationally among cities with populations of more than 200,000. However, the analysis also found that not all major American cities had data in the report -- for instance, Charlotte, N.C., often cited as one of Atlanta’s closest rivals, was not included, nor were New York City or Cleveland, Ohio.

While overall crime in Atlanta has been down, according to statistics cited by the Atlanta Police Department, Mayor Kasim Reed spoke last summer of a spike in the number of homicides and announced the creation of a gun violence task force. 

But the rise in homicides in Atlanta mirrors a national trend in major cities across the country, and a New York Times analysis last year showed major jumps in murder rates in 25 of America's 100 biggest cities. Atlanta was not one of the 25. 

The larger Atlanta area had a rate of 401 violent crimes per 100,000 population. However, that statistic included the entire Atlanta metropolitan statistical area, which includes not just Fulton but more than two dozen surrounding counties as well.

The rate of 401 puts Atlanta would be similar to that of the Clarksville, Tenn., area which had a rate of 405. That's higher than the rate of the Dallas-Fort Worth area (338) but lower than those of Kansas City (536), Columbia, S.C. (651) and Columbus, Ga. (469). The national rate was 373. 

CORRECTION: The crime statistics for the city of Atlanta were described incorrectly in the original version of this story. It has been updated to reflect the corrected ratios. The newspaper regrets the error.

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