Trump wrong on charge that crime is rising in the U.S.

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“Crime is rising.”

— Donald Trump on Tuesday, June 7th, 2016 in a speech after several primaries concluded

After big primaries in California and New Jersey on June 7, Donald Trump — the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — painted a picture of a nation in crisis.

“Hard to imagine what’s happened to our country,” Trump said. “America is being taken apart piece by piece … just rapidly auctioned off to the highest bidder. We’re broke. We’re broke. (Our debt is) $19 trillion, going quickly to $21 trillion. Our infrastructure is a disaster. Our schools are failing. Crime is rising. People are scared. The last thing we need is Hillary Clinton in the White House or an extension of the Obama disaster.”

Critics will take issue with some of those assertions, such as the idea that the United States is “broke” — something we’ve rated False previously.

But the line from Trump’s remarks that jumped out at us was this one: “Crime is rising.” Our previous research has shown that’s not so. So we took a closer look. (Trump’s campaign did not respond to an inquiry.)

We looked at two broad categories of crime — violent crime and property crime — that are frequently cited by experts as catch-all categories. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, while property crimes include burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

We turned to FBI data. Such data is submitted voluntarily by local law enforcement agencies, and thus is not perfectly comprehensive. But it is one of two data sets that is generally considered the best available for answering this question.

First, we looked at the trend for violent crime and found that it has been falling on an almost uninterrupted basis since the early 1990s.

Next, we looked at property crime data. It showed the same pattern.

We also looked at the other widely used data set — the National Crime Victimization Survey, collected by the Justice Department. It too show crime declining.

Finally, we asked two criminologists to make sure we weren’t missing something. As it happens, James Alan Fox, the interim director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, was watching Trump’s speech and noticed the comment as well.

“He is incorrect,” Fox said. “There are some spikes in homicide and shootings in certain cities, yet other cities continue to experience low rates. As a nation, we are far better off than anytime for the past several decades. Crime rates are low, and there is no consistent and reliable indication that things are getting worse.”

“Mr. Trump is wrong if he is talking about overall crime and even violent crime,” agreed University of Maryland criminologist Raymond Paternoster. Any possible upward swing in the past year or so wouldn’t show up in the data currently available, he said.

Our ruling

Speaking generally about the state of the country, Trump said, “Crime is rising.”

If you look at overall violent and property crimes — the only categories that would seem inclusive enough to qualify as “crime,” as Trump put it — he is flat wrong. In fact, crime rates have been falling almost without fail for roughly a quarter-century.

We rate his claim Pants on Fire.