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Fact-Checking the Candidates on Crime, Policing, and Email Classification

Candidates are taking the debate stage for the first time in the general election, and are likely to discuss crime, policing, and national security. New data analysis and briefing memos unpack some of the rhetoric around these issues.

September 26, 2016

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will take the debate stage tonight for the first time in the general election, laying out their plans for “securing America”— likely including discussions about crime, policing, and national security.  

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law has released data analysis and briefing memos that unpack some of the rhetoric around these issues. Authors are available for comment.

  • Classified Information: What You Need to Know. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send and receive work-related e-mails as Secretary of State has spurred a contentious debate. But the discussion has suffered from a lack of public understanding about how the classification system works. Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security program, explains the larger issues with our bloated and dysfunctional classification system, which have been obscured by this election season’s political rhetoric.
  • Crime in 2016: A Preliminary Analysis. Donald Trump has said that crime is “out of control.” The Brennan Center’s analysis of 2016 crime rates in America’s 30 largest cities found overall crime is projected to rise 1.3 percent, meaning it will remain below rates that just a few years ago were widely touted as record lows. While the murder rate is expected to increase by 13.1 percent, Chicago alone is responsible for nearly half that jump. And the FBI’s final analysis of Crime in 2015, released today, shows crime overall was down 2.6 percent last year, decreasing for the 14th year in a row. There remains no evidence of a national crime wave, although some cities, like Chicago, continue to experience major crime challenges. See our preliminary look at the FBI’s 2015 crime numbers.
  • Stop and FriskTerror attacks have prompted some to call for an expansion of controversial “stop and frisk” policiesBut beyond stop and frisk’s glaring constitutional issues, there is little evidence that it is effective at reducing crime. When New York City ended its “stop and frisk” program, many expected murder and overall crime to increase. Instead, a Brennan Center analysis showed the opposite occurred. “In fact, the biggest fall in murder rates occurred precisely when the number of stops also fell by a large amount — in 2013,” it found. Today, New York remains one of the safest large cities, with crime and murder barely off historic lows in 2015.

For more, see the Brennan Center’s Election 2016 Controversies series, which assesses issues related to democracy, justice, and the rule of law ahead of November.

To speak to a Brennan Center expert, contact Rebecca Autrey (, 646–292–8316) or Naren Daniel (, 646–292–8381).