Donald Trump’s campaign deployed out-of-date crime data about New York City in a Monday attack on state Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the lawsuit in which the former president is now facing a civil fraud trial for inflating asset valuations on financial statements.
In a news release the campaign distributed shortly before Trump appeared in a New York courtroom for the start of the trial, the former president’s campaign delivered a variety of attacks against James — one of them pointing out that she received a campaign donation from liberal billionaire George Soros, a Jewish philanthropist and Democratic donor who has been a frequent target of antisemitic conspiracy theories baselessly depicting him as a puppet master behind various domestic and international events.
The Trump campaign concluded the Monday release by claiming that New York crime has “skyrocketed” under James, who took office in 2019. But the campaign repeatedly used crime data from 2021 or 2022 even though more recent data is available — making the crime picture look worse than it is, since the situation with some major crime categories has improved markedly this year and last.
While that’s accurate, the campaign didn’t mention that the number of shootings in the city has plummeted by about 27% so far in 2023 compared to the same point in 2022 — after also��falling about 17% for the full year of 2022 compared to the full year of 2021.
In other words, the Trump campaign didn’t explain that New York City is now well into a second straight year with an improving shootings trendline, and, if current trends roughly hold for the rest of the year, that 2023 will end with a much less than 71% increase over the number of shootings compared to 2018.
Similarly, the Trump campaign said, “Murders increased by 48% from 2018 to 2022 in New York City.” The Trump campaign didn’t mention that the number of murders in the city declined by about 10% in 2022 and has fallen by about 11% so far in 2023 compared to the same point in 2022. Again, the trendline is well into a second year of significant improvement.
And the numbers aside, it’s also highly questionable at best to blame or credit an individual attorney general for the crime situation in their state.
The number of murders spiked around the country beginning in 2020, when there was widespread economic and social upheaval because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and has improved around the country in 2022 and 2023 — complicating attempts to assign blame for the increases or credit for the decreases to any particular state or local official.
In addition, the precise causes of crime fluctuations are difficult to pinpoint even decades after the fact; they are affected by numerous factors, from the economy to government policy to sociocultural factors to policing strategies to the corrections system.