Reality Check: Trump says Atlanta is 'falling apart' and 'crime infested'

Trump to John Lewis: All talk, no action
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Story highlights

  • John Lewis represents Georgia's 5th District, which is home to almost 750,000 people
  • Atlanta saw an increase in homicides in 2015, though it was lower than many other cities

Atlanta (CNN)President-elect Donald Trump harshly criticized Georgia Rep. John Lewis on Saturday, tweeting that his district was "in horrible shape and falling apart (and not to mention crime infested) ..."

Trump's tweets came in response to Lewis' comments to NBC News' Chuck Todd in a taped interview that aired on Sunday's "Meet the Press." The congressman said, "I don't see the President-elect as a legitimate president." He said he thought "Russians participated in helping get [Trump] elected." Lewis, a longtime civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., also said he will not attend Trump's inauguration this week.
To be sure, Atlanta, which makes up most of Lewis' district, is a snapshot of two extremes. For some, it is a safe, thriving place to be wealthy and well-educated. For others, there is entrenched poverty, and some of the lowest upward economic mobility in the nation.
Since 1986, Lewis has represented Georgia's 5th Congressional District, which is home to almost 750,000 people. The district serves as headquarters for several Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines. Atlanta is also home to the world's busiest airport, which is undergoing a $6 billion expansion, one of the world's largest aquariums, and, for transparency, CNN.
Education, health services, hospitality, trade and construction were just some of the sectors that saw job growth that exceeded the national average from November 2015-November 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Five billionaires among those listed on Forbes Magazine's 2016 ranking of the world's wealthiest people resided in Buckhead, one of Atlanta's wealthier neighborhoods, lined with mansions and high-end retail shops. However, Lewis' district also includes some of the poorest parts of Atlanta, like Forest Park, where the median income is $31,228, and 34% of all residents live below the poverty line, according to census data from 2015.
Atlanta's median household income in 2015, the most recent data available from the US Census Bureau, was $47,527. The median household income in 2010 was $45,171.
Donald Trump was not always so dismissive of Atlanta. Nearly 10 years ago, when Atlanta's criminal offenses were around 27% higher than now, Trump praised Georgia's capital. "Atlanta's just ... they've done a great job, an amazing job," Trump said after he announced plans to build a two-tower, luxury high-rise in Atlanta. "And we're just happy to be here." Trump Towers never came to be, however, and went into foreclosure after the 2008 recession.
Since that time, Atlanta's real estate market has rebounded. "Metropolitan Atlanta is certainly considered right now to be a very active market," said Adam DeSanctis, an economic issues research manager with the National Association of Realtors.
Lewis' 5th District has seen highs and lows, but it is not near the dilapidation that Trump suggests. Therefore, we rate Trump's remarks that it is "in horrible shape and falling apart" as FALSE.
With regard to crime, citing the FBI's 2016 Uniform Crime Report, some media have ranked Atlanta in the top 20 of most dangerous cities. However, in its report, the FBI cautions against "making direct comparisons between cities" because they "lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analysis that often create misleading perceptions." The FBI says the figures, which covered January-June 2015 and the same period in 2016, were submitted voluntarily by law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
Last year, using information from individual police departments, The New York Times conducted an independent analysis on the increase of murder rates in 100 of the largest cities from 1985-2015. Across three decades, murder rates increased significantly in 25 major US cities, but Atlanta was not among them.
But in the more recent past, the city has seen the number of homicides increase, from 80 in 2009 to 111 as of Christmas Day 2016, a jump of 39%, according to the Atlanta Police Department. Nonetheless, the department says it has seen a decline in overall crime in the past eight years.
While Atlanta did experience an increase in homicides in 2015, that increase was lower than many other major cities, according to a National Institute of Justice study.
Given that the FBI cautions against using its data to compare cities, and because it's not clear what President-elect Trump means when he says Atlanta is "crime infested," we won't issue a verdict on this one.