President Donald Trump celebrated declining violent crime rates during a speech at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting on Friday.
He made several claims about crime rates, suggesting crime was on the decline thanks to the efforts of his administration.
“As we protect gun rights for law abiding citizens, we’re also getting guns out of the hands of violent criminals. When I took office two years ago one of my highest priorities was to reduce violent crime. In the two years before my inauguration the murder rate had increased by more than 20%,” Trump said. He added, “And the United States had experienced the largest increase in violent crime in over 25 years.”
Facts First: FBI data did report a 20% rise in homicides in the largest cities over the course of 2015 and 2016. And there was a sharp increase in violent crime in percentage terms between 2014 and 2016, not necessarily in total criminal incidents.
But overall, violent crime and homicide rates continued to stay at near historical lows through 2016, according to the Congressional Research Service. Violent crime rates peaked in the 1990s and have been steadily going down ever since, while the homicide rate peaked in the early 1980s with a smaller spike in the early 1990s.
“We charged a record number of criminal offenders and last year we prosecuted the most violent criminals ever in our history and now violent crime is way down,” Trump said.
Facts First: Violent crime rates were down in 2017 compared with 2016, but some crimes considered violent, such as rape and aggravated assault, were on the rise in the same period.
Trump would be right in saying that violent crime in 2017 was declining overall compared to 2016, according to FBI statistics. However, it hadn’t gone down to 2013 levels, suggesting that the latest numbers aren’t as “way down” as Trump is suggesting. The murder rate recorded as part of these statistics shows the same trend.
In addition, while the total of violent crimes saw a decrease in 2017, rape, aggravated assaults, and motor vehicle thefts were on the rise.
Trump said, “Murders in America’s largest cities dropped by 6% between 2017 and 2018. But I do have to ask you what the hell is going on in Chicago? What is going on?”
Facts First: Homicide is estimated to have fallen in some of America’s largest cities last year and Chicago is one of them.
A Brennan Center for Justice analysis of crime in 2018 estimated that the murder rate in 30 of the US’s largest cities declined by nearly 6% between 2017 and 2018. However, Trump’s singling out of Chicago suggests a high or increasing homicide rate – and that is not supported by facts.
Late last year, CNN reported that Chicago saw a significant drop in murders and gun violence for the second year in a row, according to police. Across the city, there were 100 fewer murders than in 2017, when 650 people were killed. Overall, 2017 crime had fallen 10% compared with 2016, the year Chicago recorded its highest murder rate in two decades, with 762 people killed.
“The number of police officers shot and killed in the line of duty (in 2017), I’m so happy to report, is down 21% compared to the year before. And that was the year before I took office,” Trump said.
Facts First: The number of law enforcement officers shot and killed in the line of duty is decreasing.
Trump is right in saying that in 2017, there were fewer law enforcement officers shot and killed in the line of duty with a firearm compared with the previous year. According to FBI statistics, 42 law enforcement officers were killed with firearms, compared with 62 the year prior. However, numbers have not gone back to 2015 levels, when data reported to the FBI shows 38 officers were killed by firearms.
Another group that tallies law enforcement deaths, the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, says 67 officers were killed by firearms in 2016, 46 were killed by firearms in 2017 and 53 were killed by firearms in 2018.
CNN’s Bill Kirkos contributed to this report.