The stats will show crime in US cities fell in 2017, researchers say

Not what he is saying.
Not what he is saying.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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Trump administration officials love talking about how the US is in the throes of a dangerous, deadly crime wave that bodes terribly for the future of the country. Yet as 2017 comes to an end, experts confirm what they predicted earlier this year: Crime in the US is falling, directly contradicting the scaremongering.

New York University’s Brennan Center has released an update to its September estimates about the year in crime. In thirty of the largest US cities, the rate is estimated to have declined from 2016, falling by 2.7%. Violent crime, which the Trump administration is particularly vocal about, will also decline slightly, by 1.1%, the researchers say. Even murder, which rose in 2016, is estimated to have declined by 5.6%.

Of course, these are just estimates, and they only talk about big cities. Official nationwide statistics from the FBI (which are far from perfect) won’t be published until well into next year. The violent crime rate in large metropolitan areas is generally higher than in less-populated places.

In the past, the Brennan Center’s predictions have been relatively close to the final FBI data for the same cities. In 2017, they indicate that cries of a national crime waves were overblown, and that large cities with a lot of crime skew the overall picture. According to last year’s FBI numbers, Chicago was responsible for one fifth of the increase in the US murder rate from 2015 to 2016. The Brennan Center says Chicago fared much better this year, with its homicides falling 12%, helping bring the national rate for cities down (a large decline in Detroit, and smaller ones in other cities also helped).

However, the situation is far from optimal. Murder rates rose in several cities—by more than 50% in Charlotte, 38% in Columbus, 11% in Baltimore (they also rose by a lot in Boston, Seattle, or Portland, but the number of cases in these cities are relatively low, making for big percentage changes). Homicides in Chicago may have fallen, but there were still 675 murders there, which is more than twice than New York or Los Angeles, and simply put, a lot.

As criminologist Thomas Abt noted in a New York Times op-ed when the 2016 FBI data was released earlier this year, it’s important to remember that it’s easy to use crime numbers to suit a political agenda:

Let’s not deny or diminish the immense suffering of victims of crime and communities that are plagued by violence. And let’s refuse to exploit that suffering by using it to sow fear among Americans.