- Annual FBI release of crime statistics shows 10.8 per cent increase in murders in 2015 along with a 3 per cent jump in overall violent crimes
- Could become a ‘political football’ during Monday night’s first presidential debate, part of which may cover domestic safety and security
- Numbers are lower than recent high water marks – which coincided with Bill Clinton’s presidency
- Trump has been trying to tie Clinton to Obama’s policy legacy while urging safety-conscious urban black voters to abandon her
The Federal Bureau of Investigation handed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a gift-wrapped talking point on Monday morning, announcing just hours before his first debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton that America’s murder rate rose by 10.8 per cent last year.
Trump has sought to tie Clinton to the Obama administration’s domestic policy record while arguing that tougher policing can curb U.S. inner-city violence if only black voters would break from their traditional Democratic loyalties.
‘What do you have to lose?’ he has become fond of asking.
The FBI estimates that 15,696 people were murdered in the U.S. last year.
The announcement, part of a larger data dump of crime statistics, found that the overall violent crime rate also rose by 3 per cent in 2015.
Both increases were still well below 25-year high water marks in the 1990s, but that period coincided with the presidency of Clinton’s husband Bill – another potential albatross around her neck.
Mrs. Clinton has not been able to explain away her 1996 comment that urban gangs – most of which at that point were majority African-American – were comprised of ‘super predators.’ The remark opened her to criticism from primary challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders that it was a ‘racist’ thing to say.
‘No conscience, no empathy,’ she said then. ‘We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.’
That cringe-inducing moment came at a time when her husband’s administration was projecting a tough-on-crime image with a promise of putting 100,000 new police officers on America’s streets.
Very few of those beat-cops materialized: The White House offered to subsidize them for only a short time, and police unions made it clear that they wouldn’t agree to any downsizing when the funds ran out.
At least one portion of Monday night’s debate will focus on public safety.
The FBI’s annual report showed that the prevalence of murder, rape and assault edged up last year after long-term decreases.
At 372.6 incidents per 100,000 people, the 2015 violent-crime rate is higher than the 2014 rate of 361.6 but well below the levels of the last decade, which never dipped below 400. The increase was most pronounced in big cities, the report found.
The report could ‘be turned into political football’ on debate night, said Robert Smith, a research fellow at Harvard Law School, in a teleconference on Friday with other crime experts.
Trump last week praised aggressive policing, including ‘stop-and-frisk’ tactics that critics say unfairly target minorities.
Clinton has pushed for stricter gun control to help curb violence and has called for national guidelines on the use of force by police officers.
In 2015, there were an estimated 15,696 murders in the United States compared with an estimated 14,164 the prior year, according to the report. Last year’s crime rate was still lower than in 2012 and earlier years, the FBI found.
Crime was highest in the southern United States, the report found. At 45.9 per 100,000 people, the murder and manslaughter rate in the region was more than twice as high as in the West, the Midwest and the Northeast, according to the FBI. Rates of rape, assault and property crime were dramatically higher as well.
FBI Director James Comey warned last year that violent crime in the United States might rise because increased scrutiny of policing tactics had created a ‘chill wind’ that discouraged officers from using aggressive tactics.