Last year, Indiana held municipal elections, and in Indianapolis, the Republican candidate for Mayor focused a lot of his attention on crime, especially “urban” crime. (Dog whistle, anyone??) Despite pouring some thirteen million dollars of his own money into that race, he failed to exceed the GOP’s baseline vote. Nevertheless, I expected that similar allegations about urban crime would form a large part of this year’s federal election strategy.
I now think I was wrong. Trump’s efforts to destroy a bipartisan agreement on immigration–an agreement that gave Republicans a number of things they’d long been seeking–was based entirely upon the GOP’s need to feature immigration as the campaign issue. Republicans aren’t even pretending otherwise; several GOP congressmen have admitted that, thanks to the lunatic caucus’ intransigence and refusal to do the jobs they were elected to do, they accomplished nothing and have nothing else to run on. So crime will likely take a back seat to the “immigration crisis” –a crisis the GOP has purposely sustained. To the extent crime enters the dialogue, it will be attributed to “those people” at the border.
Still, it’s worthwhile to examine the repeated misinformation about America’s crime problems, and a recent Substack letter did just that.
The letter pointed to another reason that crime rates might take a back seat in the upcoming campaigns: those rates have been coming down.
The number of murders in U.S. cities fell by more than 12 percent — which would be the biggest national decline on record. The spike that started in 2020 now looks more like a blip, and the murder rate is lower than it was during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. The recent data also suggests that the violent-crime rate in 2023 was near its lowest level in more than 50 years.
What about blaming Democratic mayors for crime?
Several Republicans have noted that 27 of the 30 cities with the highest homicide rate have Democratic Mayors. But most cities of any size have Democratic mayors: among the 50 largest cities, 37 have Democratic Mayors. “If you go even further to the top 100 Cities — they have Democratic Mayors 63% of the time and have 76% of the population.”
Republicans have also insisted that an “urban crime increase” is due to the election of “progressive” Prosecutors. The linked letter describes several academic studies that convincingly disprove that thesis, along with bogus claims that police forces have been “defunded.” Actually (despite one of the stupidest political slogans ever) most police departments have seen their budgets increase in the last 3 years.
It also turns out that crime is lower in those Democratic “urban” areas than in those “real American” Red states.
And for future reference, we can also debunk the “Crime in Democrat cities” by looking at where crime actually happens -— and that’s in Red States.
The murder rate in the 25 states that voted for Donald Trump has exceeded the murder rate in the 25 states that voted for Joe Biden in every year from 2000 to 2020.
Over this 21-year span, this Red State murder gap has steadily widened from a low of 9% more per capita red state murders in 2003 and 2004 to 44% more per capita red state murders in 2019, before settling back to 43% in 2020.
Altogether, the per capita Red State murder rate was 23% higher than the Blue State murder rate when all 21 years were combined.
If Blue State murder rates were as high as Red State murder rates, Biden-voting states would have suffered over 45,000 more murders between 2000 and 2020.
Even when murders in the largest cities in red states are removed, overall murder rates in Trump-voting states were 12% higher than Biden-voting states across this 21-year period and were higher in 18 of the 21 years observed.
Unsurprisingly, the gun crime rate in rural areas is also higher than in urban areas.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Surgery found that firearm deaths are more likely in small rural towns than in major urban cities, adding to research that contradicts common belief that Democratic blue areas have higher incidences of gun-related deaths than do Republican red districts.
The linked Substack letter is lengthy, and reports the results of numerous studies–if you are interested in an in-depth analysis of existing research, it’s well worth reading in its entirely. But one nugget I found especially interesting was the observation that there is a lot that cities are trying to do to address gun violence … but many of them are “hamstrung by state policies and can’t control the flow of guns or how guns are carried in their cities.” When there is no local control there’s only so much city officials can do.
In Indianapolis, our urban hands are tied by the gun zealots in our embarrassing state legislature.