(NewsNation) — Crime has become a central focus of Republican politicians ahead of November’s midterm elections. GOP candidates throughout the country are focused on what they call a nationwide crime spike, seeking to cast Democrats as soft on crime.
In September, the Republican National Convention sent a memo to its members, encouraging them to finish their sentences on the campaign trail with statements about immigration, the economy and rising crime. Many Republicans have stuck to that playbook, particularly on crime.
Republican House and Senate candidates have focused on rising crime in Democrat-run cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Chicago to drive their points home, often attacking Democratic criminal justice policies in those cities.
However, data shows the “rise in violent crime” narrative pushed by Republicans and right-leaning media is only partly true.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association, which is comprised of law enforcement agencies in 70 of the country’s biggest cities including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix, released its midyear violent crime report, which showed a mixed bag on a rise in violent crime.
In New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, three of the cities most frequently targeted by the GOP, crime statistics paint a much more nuanced narrative than that pushed by the GOP, according to MCCA data.
In Chicago, Republicans have criticized the Democrats’ SAFE-T Act, an 800-page criminal justice bill, for its inclusion of a clause that would end cash bail in the state. Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey has called Chicago a “hellhole” while on the campaign trail and said crime in the city was “out of control” during a debate Tuesday night.
New York City
In New York, Republicans have criticized Democratic criminal justice reforms, particularly targeting progressive district attorneys they say have been “soft on crime.”
“The truth is that violent criminals are emboldened by soft-on-crime policies and a lack of consequences,” Rep. John Katko (R-NY) wrote in a May guest column in The Hill. “Progressive prosecutors across this country are intentionally disregarding their duties to represent the people and protect our communities. They are disregarding the law and putting criminals back on our streets.”
Republicans in Pennsylvania have targeted crimes in Philadelphia in particular as a reason change is needed in the state. The Philadelphia Police Union endorsed Republican Mehmet Oz for Senate, saying he will protect police officers.
Crime did rise in the United States in 2020 while the coronavirus pandemic raged. In 2020, there were 17,815 homicides in the United States, according to FBI data. In 2021, that number fell to 14,677, returning to pre-pandemic levels that saw 14,548 homicides in 2019 and 14,594 in 2018.
FBI data shows violent crime dropped 1% nationwide in 2021 after rising during the pandemic. In 2020, the violent crime rate nationwide was 398.5 per 100,000 people, up from 380.8 per 100,000 in 2019.
In 2021, the violent crime rate nationwide dropped 1%, according to FBI data. However, reporting by Axios and the Marshall Project found major cities including Los Angeles and New York City did not provide their crime data to the FBI in 2021, possibly skewing the data.