Speaking in Philadelphia on Thursday, President Trump made one of his trademark digressions into a discussion of violent crime.
Mentioning the increase in violent crime in some major cities nationwide — which is true, homicides have gone up in numerous big cities — Trump also pointed to the city where he was speaking during a Republican strategy retreat.
“Here in Philadelphia, the murder rate has been steady — I mean just terribly increasing,” he said.
The opposite is true. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, the city finished last year with 277 homicides, which was actually down from the 280 killings seen a year earlier.
All told, homicides are down considerably over the past decade after reaching 391 homicides in 2007:
Homicides are up so far this year, though. Police say there have been 27 homicides through Wednesday night, up from 17 at the same point last year. But that is too small a sample size to say violence is “terribly increasing.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D), in a statement released Thursday afternoon, assailed Trump’s comments and noted that homicides were “slowly declining” in the city.
“President Trump’s false statements today were an insult to the men and women of the Philadelphia police force—the very same men and women who are working long hours today to ensure his safety,” Kenney said. “Our police officers have worked tirelessly and with great personal sacrifice to get Philadelphia’s crime rate down to its lowest point in forty years, while also successfully implementing reforms to strengthen police-community relations and uphold the rights of all our residents.”
Kenney also said that he felt the city was “handicapped by Republican refusal to enact any kind of common sense gun control” as well as what he called an “obsession with turning our police officers” into immigration agents, a reference to Trump’s directive that his homeland security secretary deputize local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.
Trump has repeatedly weighed in on violent crime, using his acceptance speech at the Republican convention (“crime and terrorism and lawlessness”) and his inaugural address (“American carnage”) to paint a dire picture of a crime-ridden country.
While some of his comments and characterizations are correct, he tends to exaggerate or misstate other things when discussing the issue. For example, the murder rate is not the highest it has been for 45 years, despite Trump’s repeated claim that this is the case.
This week, Trump has repeatedly referenced the bloodshed in Chicago, which he also mentioned during his remarks in Philadelphia. Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he would “send in the Feds” if city officials couldn’t stop the violence in Chicago, which saw 762 murders last year, the most in two decades. During an interview with ABC on Wednesday, Trump avoided offering specifics when asked what he meant, though he said the problem might be police and city officials “being overly politically correct.”
In Philadelphia, Trump also invoked a 14 percent uptick in the homicide rate for the country’s biggest cities, which also ties back to Chicago. In a report released last month, the Brennan Center for Justice, a law and policy institute based in New York, said that the number of killings in Chicago accounted for nearly half of the overall increase among all major cities.
While violent crime and murders both went up in 2015, and multiple big cities reported similar increases last year, the levels of violence still remain far below what they were decades earlier, and the upticks follow years of consistent declines. However, criminologists and other experts warn against drawing too many conclusions from such a short span of time.
This story, first published at 2:41 p.m., has been updated with the mayor’s statement.