Has NY set a murder record? Not even close

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By Daniel Dale | CNN

Former President Donald Trump falsely claimed Thursday that murder and violent crime in New York have hit record highs.

Trump made the claim on his social media platform while attacking New York Attorney General Letitia James over her civil fraud lawsuit against him, which led to the trial that began on Monday. After denouncing James, the case and the judge presiding over the trial, Trump wrote, “All of this while MURDERS & VIOLENT CRIME HIT UNIMAGINABLE RECORDS! This is sooo bad for New York.”

Facts First: Trump’s crime claim isn’t close to true. Murder and violent crime aren’t anywhere near record highs in New York, either the state or the city.

Trump has made false claims about supposed crime “records” a regular part of his playbook for attacking prosecutors who are pursuing cases against him.

When Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was leading an investigation of Trump, which resulted in a criminal indictment in March, Trump falsely claimed that violent crime in Manhattan was at a record high. After Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis secured an August indictment against Trump over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, he falsely claimed that murder and violent crime in Atlanta had reached unprecedented levels.

Let’s take a look at the numbers that disprove his latest claim.

Crime in New York state

The state of New York recorded 791 murders in 2022, according to official figures published on the state website. That wasn’t close to a record high. New York recorded 2,605 murders in 1990, when it had a smaller population, according to past official figures provided to CNN by crime analyst and consultant Jeff Asher, co-founder of the firm AH Datalytics.

In addition to 1990, New York state recorded more than 2,000 murders in 11 other years from 1979 (the year Asher’s data begins) through 1994. And New York had more murders than it did in 2022 every year from 2000 through 2008.

Trump could have correctly said that the state’s 2022 murder figure was much worse than its murder figures from just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic; the state recorded 568 murders in 2019. (Murder spiked around the country in 2020.) But the 2022 figure was nothing close to the unimaginable record he claimed – and it was down from both 2020 and 2021.

The state’s 2022 number of violent crimes, 84,714, was its highest since 2005, but it too was nowhere near a record. The state recorded more than 200,000 violent crimes every year from 1989 through 1992. It also recorded more than 100,000 violent crimes in each of the other years from 1979 through 2000, the data provided by Asher shows.

Crime in New York City

Since Trump made the claim about “record” crime in New York while lambasting the state attorney general, it seems likely he was talking about crime in New York state as a whole. Because he didn’t specify, though, we’ll briefly note that his claim is still wrong if he was talking about New York City alone.

New York City recorded 438 murders in 2022, and murder in the city is down about 11% so far in 2023 compared to the same point in 2022. By contrast, the city recorded 2,262 murders in 1990. The city recorded 649 murders in 2001, the last year of the mayoralty of Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, whose record on crime Trump has repeatedly praised.

The city’s 2022 and 2023-to-date figures for the violent crimes of rape, robbery and felony assault also do not even approach record levels.

A broader point

It’s worth taking a step back from the numbers to note the folly of trying to blame or credit any single state attorney general for crime trends, positive or negative.

It is notoriously difficult to pinpoint the reasons that crime rises or falls at any given time – there is a long list of economic, social and political factors at play – and local prosecutors, not the attorney general, are responsible for prosecuting the vast majority of crimes.

In April, when Trump was attacking Bragg over crime in Manhattan, Asher said: “We have a tendency to want to blame one person, or credit one person, when in reality these are complex systems that rise and fall for often complex, random reasons that we don’t have the ability to explain – but it’s easier to say, ‘It was Joe Schmoe over there.’”

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