The Brennan Center for Justice disputes a Trump administration theme of a crime wave, estimating that crime in the nation’s largest cities will drop this year. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, using apparently dated FBI figures, said on Monday that violent crime is up.
The overall crime rate in 28 of the 30 largest U.S. cities fell about 2.7 percent this year, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University estimated on Wednesday. The center said violent crime also dropped, but only by 1.1 percent.
Assuming that the trend holds, violent crime would be near the bottom of a 30-year downward trend. This year is expected to end with the second-lowest rates of crime and violent crime since 1990, the center said.
Disputing a theme of the Trump administration, the Brennan Center contended that its “findings directly undercut any claim that the nation is experiencing a crime wave.”
Looking at murders in the big cities, the total rate dropped 5.6 percent, led by declines in Chicago and Detroit, the center said.
Murders in Chicago went up sharply in both 2015 and 2016, but the center projected the rate to drop 11.9 percent this year. Still, that is 62.4 percent above 2014.
The center speculated that the national increases of the last two years, led by Chicago, may have been “short-term fluctuations in a longer-term downward trend.”
The murder rate in Detroit was projected to fall about 9.8 percent.
New York City’s rate also will decline, to 3.3 murders per 100,000 population.
Murders in some cities will increase, including Charlotte, a rate increase of 54.6 percent, and Baltimore, 11.3 percent.
Among the 30 largest cities, violent-crime data were not available from Phoenix and Oklahoma City.
Also, the center did not include the 58 deaths in the Las Vegas concert shooting, saying that authorities classified them as terrorism. Murders in Las Vegas, not counting the concert massacre, were projected to drop from 168 to 143 this year.
The authors made year-end projections based on partial year data for this report. They explained that because of the seasonal nature of crime, it would not be appropriate, for example, to double the totals from the first six months of the year to arrive at an annual figure.
Instead, the Brennan Center said it makes projections by incorporating month-to-month trends from previous years to make annual estimates “as accurate as possible.”
President Trump ran for office on a “tough on crime” platform that has emphasized a focus on places where crime totals are up.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking in Milwaukee on Monday, said that the long-term trend of declining crime in the last two decades “has reversed” in the last two years.
Sessions said, “The violent crime rate is up by nearly seven percent. Robberies are up. Assaults are up nearly 10 percent. Rape is up by nearly 11 percent. Murder is up by more than 20 percent.”
Sessions did not specify his source of data, but it apparently was the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which lags behind the Brennan Center’s analysis. The FBI issued its report for 2016 in late September.
It estimated 17,250 murders in the U.S. in 2016, an 8.6 percent rise from 2015.
The FBI said that violent crime totals rose 4.1 percent in 2016, while property crime fell 1.3 percent compared to 2015 figures.
The FBI’s report is based on data submitted voluntarily by local law enforcement agencies, which does not include the many crimes not reported to police. The FBI compilation included most U.S. cities, far more than the Brennan Center’s 28.
Data in the Brennan Center report also was also obtained directly from cities, but on a much more current basis.
This summary was prepared by Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcomed.