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Trump allies misrepresent crime in NYC
According to reports, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) is close to indicting former President Donald Trump for falsifying business records and violating campaign finance laws in relation to a $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, a former adult film star who says that she had an affair with Trump. On Saturday, Trump announced on Truth Social that he was anticipating being arrested Tuesday, although that did not happen.
Trump has responded to the reports by calling Bragg a "Racist in Reverse," and said it was implausible that he had an affair with Daniels because she has a "horse face." These claims have not gained much traction with his Republican supporters.
But at the CPAC Conference earlier this month, Trump claimed that Bragg “is presiding over one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the United States… where killings are taking place at a number like nobody’s ever seen, right in Manhattan.” Trump told the crowd that Bragg should focus on stemming the alleged increase in violent crime instead of the “now ancient” story of Stormy Daniels “where there is no crime anyway.”
Trump’s top allies have coalesced around that narrative, arguing that Bragg should forget about Trump and focus on the “skyrocketing” crime in New York City.
In an interview on ABC News, former Vice President Mike Pence said he was “taken aback” at the reports of a potential indictment. “At a time when there’s a crime wave in New York City, the fact that the Manhattan DA thinks that indicting President Trump is his top priority just tells you everything you need to know about the radical left,” Pence said.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) echoed the same argument, claiming that crime is so bad in New York that “people are afraid to walk the streets.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) followed suit, saying, “What we’ve seen in Manhattan is we’ve seen the crime rate go up, and we’ve seen citizens become less safe.”
This argument was also amplified by numerous members of Congress, including Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who argued that “[v]iolent crime [is] skyrocketing.” Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH), Bryan Steil (R-WI), and James Comer (R-KY), wrote a letter to Bragg arguing that he should not “pursue such a politically motivated prosecution” while also allowing “criminals [to] run[ ] the streets.” Jordan furthered the claim on Twitter, stating that Bragg “[i]gnores record crime in New York City to attack political opponents.”
All of these arguments are based on the false presumption that street crime is inherently more serious than white-collar crime. But there is an even bigger issue: the claim that crime is at record levels in New York City is false.
The truth about violent crime in NYC
Stoking fears of a “violent crime wave” is a well-worn Republican strategy. But crime data for New York City doesn’t support these claims – if anything, it shows the opposite.
According to crime statistics from the New York Police Department (NYPD), overall index crime – which includes murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, grand larceny, and auto theft – went down by nearly 6% last month compared to February 2022 last year. Shooting incidents and murders in February 2023 were also down 15% and 28%, respectively, compared to the same period last year.
So far this year, the total number of murders in the city is 66 – a 19% decrease compared to the same time last year. This number is also 83% lower than 30 years ago. Similarly, the number of shooting incidents is down by 21% in 2023 compared to the same time last year. Incidents of felony assault and grand larceny auto are up this year compared to this time in 2022, but counts of rape, robbery, burglary, and grand larceny have gone down.
Incidents of the seven major felony offenses in New York City totaled 126,589 in 2022, up 19% from the previous year. But this is roughly the same level as in 2006, when there were a total of 128,682 such incidents. And last year's level of major felony offenses in New York City was still 46% lower than in 2000.
Subway crime is also falling. Between last October and January of this year, crimes on the subway dropped 16% compared with the same period a year before, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced earlier this year.
New York City remains the safest of America's six largest cities. It is also safer than most smaller metro areas as well. Manhattan, the borough that Bragg represents, is one of the safest places to live in the entire United States.
Further, as Alec Karakatsanis notes, crime data itself is incomplete. It focuses on violent “street crime” like homicides, excluding other types of crimes, including wage theft, illegal eviction, and air and water pollution. As Popular Information has previously reported, wage theft is far more pervasive than robbery. Additionally, experts estimate that air pollution kills more than 100,000 Americans every year – roughly four times the amount of deaths caused by murder.
The media amplifies misleading information on crime
Although claims of rising crime in New York City are false, media reports covering Trump’s potential indictment are perpetuating the baseless claims of his supporters without context. For example, Pence’s claim that “there’s a crime wave in New York City” was amplified in articles by CNN, Insider, NBC News, the New York Times, and Newsweek. None of these articles note that Pence's claim is inaccurate.