Violent crime is actually trending down

In Donald Trump’s dark view of America, violence and crime are rampant. “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,’’ Trump declared Thursday night on stage at the GOP convention in Cleveland, where he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.’’

Murders in some cities, including Milwaukee and Chicago, have recently increased. That’s correct.

But the very criminologist who crunched the numbers Trump cited Thursday night rejected his conclusion that the nation is awash in violence. That’s “way off base,’’ said Richard Rosenfeld, a University of Missouri criminology professor who wrote the U.S. Justice Department paper containing the figures.

“Even with the homicide increase in large cities last year, the country is still experiencing violent crime rates that are far lower than they were 20 years ago,’’ Rosenfeld told Tribune News Service on Friday.

Crime is actually lower under the current president than it has been under his predecessors going back to and including Ronald Reagan. (Not that presidents are on the front lines of local law enforcement decisions. That’s the job of mayors and police chiefs.)

Recent mass shootings, including of police officers, in America and around the world are scary. Presidents are supposed to protect us from terrorism.

But Trump’s diatribes and lack of policy prescriptions aren’t reassuring. Trump told Republican delegates and a national television audience Thursday that Obama has failed America’s cities “in every way and on every level.’’

Actually, in Madison and many other communities, progress has been made on jobs, economic development, health and safety. Madison’s crime rate has been on a general decline since the 1990s, despite a string of shootings earlier this year. And an increase in gun-related arrests involving young people isn’t much different than population growth.

Never one for subtlety, Trump said Obama has overseen a “domestic disaster,’’ including “violence in our streets and chaos in our communities.’’ Trump claimed his Democratic opponent for president, Hillary Clinton, is proposing “mass lawlessness.’’

Trump’s simple solution is to elect him in November, magically restoring safety. Just don’t ask him what he would actually do.

“Nobody knows the system better than me,’’ the real estate developer and television star said Thursday, “which is why I alone can fix it.’’

It’s hard to blame a president, much less a secretary of state, for a sudden increase in murders in some cities but not others _ especially when such numbers fluctuate over time. Crime researchers look for sustained trends, not one year of deviation.

But when you are running for president claiming your opponent’s legacy is “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness,’’ you need some numbers to try to exploit. Hence, Trump’s cherry-picked crime statistics Thursday night.

Americans shouldn’t fall for the brash billionaire’s trumped-up rhetoric and accusations.

Wisconsin State Journal, July 25

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