139

Current US President Donald Trump is on record as repeatedly saying that "The murder rate is the highest it's been in I guess 45-47 years."

Is that true?

  • 6
    Are there localized areas (Chicago, perhaps) where this could be true? – Michael Richardson Feb 8 '17 at 16:40
  • 1
    "murder rate" isn't unambiguous. Could be per capita, per year, per month, per age group (say 16 to 29 year olds), per race, per income, per educational attainment, per employment status, etc., etc. or some combination of these. Could he be talking about something other than the annual murders per capita? Well, if he's not, then he's a liar; but he is a liar. But the question was was his statement correct? I have no idea what reference he was measuring against, so I can't answer that question. Since, generally, the murder rate means per capita, if he meant something else, then he was being m – Li Zhi Feb 9 '17 at 23:28
  • 13
    @Michael Richardson: Well, how localized to you want to be? If someone is killed in my parlor tonight, the murder rate in my house will be the highest it's been in centuries. – A. I. Breveleri Feb 10 '17 at 0:11
  • 12
    Failure to do a basic fact-check before making public statements appears to be exceptionally frequent right now, in any case. Whether that is because these individuals don't believe they could be wrong, don't believe they could be challenged, or don't believe the error can hurt them is not clear, and at this point even giving them the benefit of the doubt leads to unpleasant conclusions. – keshlam Feb 11 '17 at 1:06
  • 2
    It's true that he guesses. – CJ Dennis Feb 11 '17 at 6:40
200

NO! The EXACT OPPOSITE is true.

According to this comprehensive listing showing data from 1960 to 2015 shows the highest absolute number of murders (24,700) occurred in 1991. The highest per capita rate (10.2) occurred in 1980. If anything, the data shows that the period of 2010 to 2015 has been historically LOW for murders.

Pew has similar numbers. As well as showing that people are totally unaware of the fact that rates are at historic lows.

Here is a graph:

Graph that clearly shows Trump is lying

As per ff524's comment: "Law enforcement agencies tabulate the number of Part I offenses brought to their attention based on records of all reports of crime received from victims, officers who discover infractions, or other sources... When, through investigation, an agency determines that complaints of crimes are unfounded or false, the agency eliminates that offense from its crime tally through an entry on the monthly report." In other words: the FBI data is reported crimes, minus reports that have been determined to be unfounded. (The "murder" category includes both murder and non-negligent manslaughter.)

So the definition isn't cherry picked either.

  • 19
    I wonder what the actual definition of "murder" is, and whether the definition has changed over the years. For instance, if it's counted by convictions for murder, then prosecutors deciding to plea-bargain down to a lesser charge would change the rate. – jamesqf Feb 8 '17 at 0:46
  • 25
    @jamesqf "Law enforcement agencies tabulate the number of Part I offenses brought to their attention based on records of all reports of crime received from victims, officers who discover infractions, or other sources... When, through investigation, an agency determines that complaints of crimes are unfounded or false, the agency eliminates that offense from its crime tally through an entry on the monthly report." In other words: the FBI data is reported crimes, minus reports that have been determined to be unfounded. (The "murder" category includes both murder and nonnegligent manslaughter.) – ff524 Feb 8 '17 at 3:50
  • 5
    Source for the quote in my comment (it didn't fit in the original comment) – ff524 Feb 8 '17 at 14:44
  • 1
    Reminder: We have a Be Nice rule, that is enforced. – Oddthinking Feb 8 '17 at 16:36
  • 2
    The graph is a nice visual. For insight into the recent decline see: freakonomics.com/2005/05/15/… – technosaurus Feb 10 '17 at 19:30
103

No, 2015 was the highest since 2009, but it was much higher previously, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

enter image description here

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, via Politifact, the increase in the murder rate (10.8% from 2014 to 2015) is the highest in 45 years, but obviously that is different from the quote in the OP.

Full year statistics for 2016 are not yet available, but the FBI reports that for the first half of 2016 murders were up 5.2% over the first half of 2015.

  • 12
    Is it possible Trump is referring to a different measure using the wrong term? – jpmc26 Feb 7 '17 at 23:06
  • 1
    @jpmc26 I added a possibility that that. – DavePhD Feb 7 '17 at 23:07
  • 7
    @Darthfett Probably worth noting that the footnote on that line says "Big cities tend to correlate strongly with but also overestimate national murder trends. In 2015, for example, murder rose nearly 15 percent in cities of 250,000 or more, versus 10.8 percent nationally." (emphasis mine.) ("The big cities experienced roughly a 11.3 percent increase in murder in 2016" - so Asher is suggesting that there was probably some increase overall, but probably less than 11.3 percent - maybe much less.) – ff524 Feb 8 '17 at 3:44
  • 2
    @Zibbobz I, too, live in NYC. We have had very low murder rates here the last few years. – ff524 Feb 8 '17 at 15:46
  • 1
    This chart is stunning. Despite the recent increase, it is clear that the last 7 years have had less than half the murder rate of 1980. Even the percent increase from 2014 to 2015 is relatively small and remains at that extraordinarily low level. I wish there were a way for people to become aware of this information in general; as another answer states people are totally oblivious to these facts. – Darren Ringer Feb 10 '17 at 13:57
43

No, the US Murder Rate is not the highest it's been in the past 45 years.

According to this page from fbi.gov, the murder rate and the total number of murders for the year 2015 is lower than every year between 1996 and 2008. Note that the data for 2016 is not available yet; however Donald Trump has been quoted as saying this at least as far back as October 26th, 2016.

While I was not able to find direct numbers for the time between 1970 and 1995, Factcheck.org covered this topic after Donald Trump's October 26 speech. To quote their website directly:

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.

12

No, but the rate is increasing at its highest acceleration in 45-47 years. This might be what he meant.

The Economist has gathered murder statistics for 2016 for the 50 cities with the most murders. These places contain 15% of the country’s population and around 36% of murder victims. Our numbers show that, in 2016, murders increased in 34 of the cities we tracked. Three cities experienced a spike in deaths sharper than the 58% suffered by Chicago. Since cities tend to reflect the country as a whole, this suggests that the murder rate is rising at its fastest pace since the early 1970s

  • 27
    Conceivably, but he said it throughout 2016, which is before the Economist gathered those statistics, or indeed before they were available. – anon Feb 8 '17 at 0:18
  • 61
    The difference between just two years (2015-2016) is not a useful statistic. If 2015 was below average (by random chance), and 2016 was above average (by random chance), you'd see a huge spike between 2015-2016. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Feb 8 '17 at 1:11
  • 10
    Is there any direct (i.e. a quote from someone from within the administration) to support the suggestion that he misspoke/mis-Tweeted and that he was actually referring to highest accelleration? – Richard Everett Feb 8 '17 at 1:12
  • 7
    @RichardEverett Its probably good to ask, as you did. However, if we consider his track record of correcting such statements, I think it would be highly surprising if such a clarification did surface. – Cort Ammon Feb 9 '17 at 1:13
  • 15
    In fact, he used the phrase "permanent trend" which seems to pretty definitively indicate he was talking long-term, not one particular year or two. It doesn't get much more long-term than "permanent". – T.E.D. Feb 9 '17 at 23:16

You must log in to answer this question.

protected by Community Feb 12 '17 at 15:12

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .