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Sessions calls rise in crime a ‘dangerous permanent trend,’ but FBI data shows rate consistently falling

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After being sworn in as attorney general on Thursday, Jeff Sessions lamented the rise in crime in the United States while issuing a warning about what he claimed was a trend.

“We have a crime problem,” Sessions said at the White House. “I wish the rise that we’re seeing in crime in America today was some sort of aberration or blip. My best judgment, having been involved in law enforcement for many years, is this is a dangerous permanent trend.”

But according to FBI data, that simply is not the case.

While the reported violent crime rate in the United States rose in 2015 compared to the previous year, it has fallen consistently since the early 1990s.

In 2015, there were 372.6 cases of violent crime reported per 100,000 people, according to the FBI. In 1992, there were 758.2 cases per 100,000 people. In 2008, the year before Barack Obama took office, the violent crime rate was 458.6 cases per 100,000 people. In 2009, the rate was 431.9.

Sessions’ false assertion that the rise in crime is a “permanent trend” is in line with the man who nominated him.

Earlier this week, during a meeting with a group of sheriffs from the National Sheriffs Association at the White House, President Trump claimed “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.”

Except it isn’t.

According to FBI data, the U.S. murder rate — defined as the number of murders and non-negligent homicides per 100,000 — was 4.9 in 2015, up from 4.4 in 2014. But it’s down significantly from 10.2 in 1980, having fallen steadily over the last three decades. Similarly, the number of overall homicides reported in 2015 was up compared to the previous year, but is well below its peak in the 1990s.

Jeff Sessions is sworn in as attorney general
Jeff Sessions is sworn in as attorney general in the White House on Thursday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As PolitiFact pointed out, the number of murders has declined by 42 percent between 1993 and 2014, “even as the U.S. population rose by 25 percent over the same period.”

During an address to the Major Cities Chiefs Association winter conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Trump offered a different statistic, this time correctly noting there has been an increase in the murder rate within U.S. cities.

“In 2016, murders in large cities continued to climb by double digits,” Trump said. “In many of our biggest cities, 2016 brought an increase in the number of homicides, rapes, assaults and shootings. In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone, and the rate so far this year has been even higher. What is going on in Chicago? We cannot allow this to continue.”

According to FBI data and the last two annual reports by the Brennan Center for Justice on crime in the country’s 30 largest cities, those figures were accurate.

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