• Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Fact check: Contrary to Trump’s claims, Atlanta murder is down sharply this year and nowhere near a record

Fact check: Contrary to Trump's claims, Atlanta murder is down sharply this year and nowhere near a record


Former President Donald Trump continues to make false and misleading claims about crime in Atlanta.

Trump has posted the inaccurate statements on his social media platform while attacking Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney who is prosecuting him over his efforts to overturn his defeat in Georgia in the 2020 election.

In a social media post Thursday afternoon, hours before he was planning to surrender for processing at a Fulton County jail, Trump claimed that in Atlanta, “Murder and other Violent Crimes have reached levels never seen before.”

In a post on Monday, Trump claimed that Willis “has allowed Murder and other Violent Crime to MASSIVELY ESCALATE.” He said later in the post that “Georgia does not deserve this GIANT MURDER WAVE!” In another Monday post, he claimed that Willis “is overseeing one of the greatest Murder and Violent Crime DISASTERS in American History.”

Facts First: All of these Trump claims are inaccurate. Atlanta is nowhere near record levels of either murder or violent crime. And it’s misleading at best to suggest that Atlanta has a “giant murder wave” or claim that Willis has allowed murder or violent crime to “massively escalate.” Atlanta Police Department statistics through Saturday show that the number of murders in the city is down 25% so far this year compared to last year – and that this year’s number is also down about 12% from roughly the same point in 2020, the year before Willis took office. Violent crime is also down sharply this year.

We’ll leave aside the complicated question of just how responsible any one district attorney is for either declines or improvements in their jurisdiction’s crime situation. In reality, crime trends are affected by a complex web of local and national factors.

Let’s look at the Atlanta numbers that disprove Trump’s claims.

Atlanta’s murder and violent crime numbers have improved dramatically this year

Murder in Atlanta spiked from 2020 through 2022, part of a national pandemic-era trend that began before Willis became Fulton County district attorney in 2021. (Atlanta is the largest of the county’s 15 cities.) Atlanta’s 2022 murder total, 170, was the city’s highest since 1996.

However, even that 170 number was nowhere near a level “never seen before” or the “record” Trump more explicitly claimed it was earlier in August. The city recorded 263 murders in 1973. Figures provided to CNN by crime analyst and consultant Jeff Asher, co-founder of the firm AH Datalytics, show that the 2022 total was only Atlanta’s 23rd-highest annual murder total since 1960 – and not even in its top 30 highest when population size is taken into account.

And as we showed above, the trendline has reversed in 2023. As of Saturday, there were 80 murders in Atlanta in 2023 versus 107 at the same point in 2022. (The 2023 improvement, like the 2020-to-2022 decline that preceded it, is part of a national trend.) It’s unfair for Trump to claim that Willis has “allowed” murder to “massively escalate” while murder is actually on a steep decline, just as it’s unfair to claim she is “overseeing” a murder disaster without noting she is actually overseeing significant improvements in murder totals.

The story is similar for Atlanta’s violent crime more broadly. Violent crime in the city is nowhere near a record; Asher provided figures showing that the city’s current rate is far lower than those of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, particularly the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, Atlanta reported 16,097 violent crimes in 1990 compared to 4,609 in 2021, Willis’ first year as district attorney, despite having in excess of 100,000 more residents in 2021.

And the violent crime picture in the city is, like the murder picture, getting much better in 2023. Asher noted that “overall violent crime in Atlanta fell 8% in 2022,” even as murder increased, “and is down 23% so far in 2023” – a trend that, if continued, would put the city at about the level of 2018, when it had its lowest violent crime rate since the 1960s.

In one of his Monday posts attacking Willis, Trump also said, “Crime in Atlanta is WORST IN NATION.”

Trump didn’t say what he meant by “worst.” But by any reasonable statistical measure, Atlanta was not the country’s worst city for crime even before its improvements this year.

Asher said: “Atlanta’s murder rate was roughly the 13th highest out of 85 cities for which I was able to gather complete 2022 murder data. Additionally, Fulton County does not even have the highest murder or violent crime rates in Georgia, coming in at the 8th highest murder rate and 6th highest violent crime rate for any metro county in Georgia in 2021 (10th highest murder rate and 12th highest violent crime rate for all Georgia counties).”

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