News & Politics

The White House Is Using Outdated Information About DC’s Homicide Rate

Photograph via iStock.

As part of its makeover of the White House’s website last Friday, the Trump administration added a page titled “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” to lay out its anti-crime policies.

“In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent,” the page reads.

The White House may want to revise that with the most recent facts, or at the very least stop copying and pasting from speeches President Trump made as a candidate. The District’s number of homicides did surge from 105 murders in 2014 to 162 in 2015—a 54 percent increase—but declined 17 percent last year to 135 slayings.

But the outdated figure for DC the White House is citing goes along with the rest of the paragraph it appears in. Just before citing the District’s homicide rate, the page reads: “In 2015, homicides increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”

Compare that with this passage from Trump’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention:

Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement. Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent.

FactCheck.org rated Trump correct in citing the 17-percent jump in major cities’ aggregate homicide rate from 2014 to 2015, but dinged him for being overly simplistic, as violent crime has still fallen sharply over the past couple decades in the largest US cities, including Washington. The 20-year high for homicides was recorded in 1997, when 301 individuals were killed, with the all-time high of 482 coming in 1991.

Even though the White House would technically be correct in its take on the city’s homicide rate if it could jump back in time, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office isn’t having any of it.

“It’s unfortunate that the White House seems intent on continuing to use alternative facts,” says Bowser’s communication director, Kevin Harris, referring to White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway‘s appearance Sunday on Meet the Press. “The truth is homicide rates are declining in the District and we thank the hard working men and women of MPD for continuing to make our city safer. For the White House to list alternative facts about the District’s homicide rate is a disservice to our police officers, and the honorable thing to do would be to remove those lies from their website.”

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.

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