US elections 2020: Fact-checking Trump on crime in Democratic-run cities

By Christopher Giles
BBC Reality Check

  • Published
Federal officers in PortlandImage source, Getty Images

President Donald Trump is blaming Democratic mayors for unrest across American cities in his bid to make law and order a central part of his re-election campaign.

Mr Trump has repeatedly said that the 10 most dangerous cities in the US are all run by Democrats.

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We asked The White House press office what the president's data source was for his claim, and they directed us to a Washington Post fact-check article on crime in cities.

That article uses Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) crime data from the first half of 2019 - the most recent official data source on US cities with populations over 100,000.

US cities with most overall violent crime. .  .

The top 10 cities for overall violent crime, which includes major urban areas New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, are all run by Democrats.

The Republican-run city with the highest number of cases of violent crime is Jacksonville in Florida, which is 17th on the FBI list.

However, if we look at violent crime cases per 10,000 people, Mr Trump's claim isn't quite correct.

US cities with most violent crime per 10,000 people. .  All cities are Democrat run apart from Springfield which is independent.

Springfield in Missouri is run by an independent mayor. The rest, though, have Democratic administrations.

Most large cities in America, however, are run by Democrats.

As of September 2020, the top 100 largest US cities are run by 64 Democrats, 28 Republicans, three independents and four non-partisans.

Mr Trump has blamed Democrats for high rates of violent crime in cities they control.

But the FBI has warned against using its statistics in a way which ranks cities and oversimplifies what causes crime.

"These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mould crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region," it says on its website.

"Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents."

Rising murders in large US cities run by Republicans and Democrats. Percentage change from 2019 to 2020 for the same time period.  .

Mr Trump has also said that Democratic-run cities are "rampant with crime", but some of the fastest increases in murder rates are in Republican-run cities.

Data from local police departments does show stark increases in Democratic-run Chicago and New York. But that's also a trend seen in some Republican-run metropolitan areas.

Lexington in Kentucky, a city of over 300,000 people, has seen 84.6% increase in murders when compared with the same period in 2019, for example.

Mr Trump has not talked about these places.

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"Murder is up about 25% nationally including nearly identical change in Democratic and Republican-run cities," says US crime analyst Jeff Asher.

"I think the more salient point is that cities across the country, regardless of the mayor's party, are seeing an alarming increase in murder nationally this year," he adds.

Individual years can fluctuate but violent crime across the US has been on a downward trend since the 1990s.