Today the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance held a hearing on violent crime in Washington, D.C. While crime has in fact risen this year in the nation’s capital — defying a broader trend toward falling violence in major cities — some speakers made claims that are misleading or inaccurate. Below is a fact-check of several of these claims.
- In his opening remarks, Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) faulted some major city prosecutors for being “soft on crime,” a remark later echoed by the Heritage Foundation’s Charles Stimson. The remarks was a critique of prosecutors who have advocated for reform policies such as promoting diversion programs and mental health and substance treatment and reducing the use of cash bail.
Research, however, shows there is no relationship between prosecutors who support criminal justice reform and rising crime. This year’s crime data underscores the point. So far in 2023, murders are down 20 percent in Philadelphia (where District Attorney Larry Krasner is chief prosecutor) and 11 percent in Chicago (Kim Foxx) and New York City (e.g., Alvin Bragg (Manhattan) and Eric Gonzalez (Brooklyn)).
Stimson also faulted such prosecutors for an increase in crime that, he says, began in 2016. But crime actually declined nationally between 2016 and 2019. Additionally, most of these prosecutors were not in office in 2016. Krasner was inaugurated in 2018, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón in 2020, and Foxx only in December 2016.
- Throughout the hearing, representatives cited rising crime in cities across the country such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Representatives blamed “a culture of lawlessness” (Rep. Kiley, R-CA), a “soft on crime attitude” (Rep. Tiffany, R-WI), and “reckless, irresponsible rhetoric and failed policies of Democrats and the Biden administration” (Rep. Lee, R-FL).
Violent crime has in fact risen since 2020, with the national murder rate climbing around thirty percent that year alone. But these claims overlooked important context. For one, murder counts are now declining in major cities according to best available research on crime trends in 2023.
These speakers also perpetuated the misconception that so-called “blue” cities are uniquely exposed to violent crime. But 2020’s spike in murder rates was felt around the country. It was not confined to cities or to cities with Democratic leadership, and there was no relationship, for example, between a city’s political leadership and 2020 murder increases. In fact, murder is now dropping in New York, which remains one of the nation’s safest big cities. By contrast, firearm mortality rates are much higher outside of the Northeast.
For more information, please see our analysis, Myths and Realities: Understanding Recent Trends in Violent Crime, which explores potential explanations for (and responses to) rising crime since 2020. For a look at crime trends through the mid-2010s, see our 2015 analysis, What Caused the Crime Decline?