Monday, September 4, 2017

AG Session's claim of violent crime wave debunked

Since becoming attorney general in February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions routinely has warned of a violent crime wave sweeping the nation — spurred primarily by increased violence in major cities, reported the Washington Post.

“After decreasing for nearly 20 years because of the hard but necessary work our country started in the 1980s, violent crime is back with a vengeance.”
— Attorney General Jeff Sessions, remarks at the 63rd Biennial Conference of the National Fraternal Order of Police, Aug. 28, 2017

“In the 1980s, Miami-Dade was plagued by drugs. Violent crime followed. Police regularly recorded upward of 500 murders a year. The city seemed to be crumbling. But the people of Miami-Dade refused to tolerate this level of violence. And last year, Miami-Dade’s homicide count was barely a third of what it was in the 1980s.”
— Attorney General Jeff Sessions, remarks on “sanctuary cities” in Miami, Aug. 16

Sessions uses the alleged crime wave as evidence for the need to return to “law and order,” which President Trump has vowed to make a top priority during his presidency.
First, let’s start with Sessions’s central premise: across the country, violent crime is back with a vengeance. Sessions has made the claim several times since taking office:
“All of us who work in law enforcement want to keep people safe. That is the heart of our jobs; it is what drives us every day. So we are all disturbed to learn that violent crime is on the rise in America, especially in our cities. And that is what I want to talk about with you today.” (March 15)
“As you have experienced right here in Memphis, violent crime is on the rise in America.” (May 25)
“As all of you know first-hand, our nation’s violent crime rate is rising. In many of our urban areas, this increase is staggering.” (June 20)
To support his claim, Sessions cites an increase in violent crime from 2014 to 2015 as well as a preliminary report citing an increase in violent crime in 2016, according to a Department of Justice official.
In 2015, the total number of violent crimes increased by 3.9 percent nationwide, and the violent crime rate increased by 3.1 percent nationwide, according to data from the FBI. The increases represent the largest single-year increase in the violent crime rate since 1991, but it is hardly a staggering rise. Sessions uses the one-year increase and incomplete data for 2016 to make a sweeping statement about crime across the country. But, one year of data does not constitute a trend. Many criminologists recommend using a minimum of three years to understand crime trends and to account for small, but random changes in crime over short time intervals.
“Crime is at historically low levels,” said Nick Petersen, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Miami. “There may be small increases month to month and year to year, but there is a little random noise in the fluctuations.”
In 2006 and 2007, the national violent crime rate increased for the first time in nine years, but the spike did not usher in the return of high rates of violent crime. In contrast to Sessions, then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales did not make sweeping generalizations about the return of violent crime across the country. Instead, he noted that the increase was due largely to changes in specific areas.
When you zoom out to look at the violent crime rate over a three- to five-year period, the data show just the opposite of Sessions’s claim. Every year, the FBI compiles and analyzes crime statistics from police departments nationwide. Violent crimes include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The violent crime rate shows the reported frequency of these crimes per 100,000 people.
In 1991, the nation’s violent crime rate peaked at 758 violent crimes for every 100,000 people. Since that point, violent crime across the country has declined. In fact, in 2015, the violent crime rate was lower than it has been in almost 45 years, and it is lower than it has been for most of the 2000s save for 2013 and 2014. The violent crime rate would need to more than double to reach the same levels of the 1990s, when violent crime peaked across the country.
To support his argument about a violent crime increase, Sessions routinely highlights crime in major cities like Chicago. On Aug. 16, while addressing the Justice Department’s policy on “sanctuary cities,” Sessions praised law enforcement agents in Miami-Dade County, which includes the city of Miami, for dramatically reducing the violent crime rate amid the alleged nationwide increase. In the same speech, he derided Chicago for its soaring crime rates. The comparison earned Sessions Four Pinocchios.
In 2015, Chicago recorded 478 murders, up from 411 in 2014 and 413 in 2013, and every murder factors into Chicago’s violent crime rate. Like most cities around the country, murders in Chicago peaked in the 1990’s, with a high of 943 murders recorded in 1992, and then declined by more than half. Overall, violent crime in Chicago is lower than it has been since the 1960’s. Miami-Dade, which has roughly the same population of Chicago, experienced the same decline in violent crime over the past two decades. Violent crime in Miami Dade reached record highs in the ’80s and ’90s. Since then, violent crime has declined. And this decline mirrors the national trend.
Sessions held up Miami-Dade’s crime reduction as “proof that the entire nation can do better.” Sessions employs the same tactic to dramatize crime in cities as he does to dramatize crime across the country. By zooming in on one city, like Chicago, and looking at violent crime rates over a short period of time, he can claim crime is rising.
“It is really easy to cherry pick the data point you want in order to make the claim that decades of progress is being rolled back,” said Ames Grawert, an expert on criminal justice issues at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “Sessions is pinpointing cities and making the case that they are representative when they are not. If you look at any city crime is way down.”
A Brennan analysis of declining crime rates over the course of several decades shows the link between mass incarceration and crime reduction is thin. Instead analysts cite a multitude of factors — from increased economic prosperity to the increased use of crime mapping software like CompStat.
Sessions has also made similar claims about the national murder rate. From 2014 to 2015, the rate did in fact increase nearly 11 percent. But like the violent crime rate, the rate is at a historic low. To reach the same levels the murder rate hit at its peak in the 1980s, the rate would have to more than double.
To read more CLICK HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment