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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump Wrong on Murder Rate

Donald Trump said that the murder rate in the U.S. is the “highest it’s been in 45 years” and “the press never talks about it.” The press doesn’t talk about it because Trump’s claim is wildly inaccurate.

According to FBI data, the rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in 2015 was 4.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. That’s lower than the rate in 1970, which was 7.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, and it’s lower than the peak rate of 10.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1980. Overall, the rate in 2015 was lower than any other time between 1965 and 2009.

Trump has been making the bogus claim for at least two weeks now, most recently in an Oct. 26 speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he talked about his plan to provide a “new deal for black America.”

Trump, Oct. 26: The problem is not the presence of police, but the absence of police. We need really a great group of people to keep you safe, to keep us all safe, to keep us all safe. You know the murder rate in the United States, I don’t know if you know this because the press never talks about it, is the highest it’s been, think of this, in 45 years. Nobody knows that. The murder rate, highest it’s been in 45 years.

Trump made the same false claim five days prior to that at a campaign event in Fletcher, North Carolina.


And even before that, at a campaign event in Panama City, Florida, on Oct. 11, Trump asked the crowd: “And by the way, do you know, it was just announced that murder is the highest it’s been in our country in 45 years? You’ve heard that right?”

That’s not even true based on raw numbers.

There were 15,696 murders in 2015, according to FBI estimates. That was fewer than the estimated number of murders in 1970 (16,000) and every year after that until 1999.

The murder rate in 2015 is actually the highest since 2009, when it was 5 per 100,000 people. That’s six years ago, not 45.

So what is Trump talking about?

According to the FBI, the 2015 murder rate was 10 percent higher than it was in 2014 — the highest one-year increase “in nearly half a century,” according to the New York Times

That one-year increase may be what Trump meant to say. In fact, he came close to using the actual statistic in the second presidential debate on Oct. 9, when he said, “We have an increase in murder within our cities, the biggest in 45 years.” It’s the one-year increase nationwide.

But even then, he’s wrong to say that “the press never talks about it,” since the Times wrote about it.

When the FBI released its latest annual report on U.S. crime statistics on Sept. 26, the Times said this in the opening sentence: “The country’s murder rate jumped more last year than it had in nearly half a century, newly released federal crime data showed, although the number of homicides remained far below the levels of the 1980s and ’90s.”

The Times quoted Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, saying: “It’s too early to call this an end to the crime drop, but we are facing a one-year rise in murders that is quite substantial — the largest in about half a century.”

But that’s not at all the same thing as saying that “the murder rate in the United States is the highest it’s been in 45 years,” as Trump has wrongly said now on more than one occasion.