'They're like war zones': Trump criticizes mayors —Democratic ones — over crime surges

President Trump on Wednesday criticized the leadership of cities he likened to “war zones,” hinting that he may seek to have the federal government intervene to bring down crime rates.

Trump spoke from the Oval Office at an event called to discuss the Justice Department’s efforts to take down the international crime gang MS-13. But he went on to criticize local officials in cities such as Minneapolis and Chicago who, he said, have done a poor job at containing violence in their communities.

“They’re like war zones,” he told reporters. “And if the city isn’t going to straighten it out, if local politicians, all in this case, I don’t say this for political reasons, they’re all Democrats. They’re liberal, left-wing Democrats. And it’s almost like they think this is going to be this way forever, where in Chicago, 68 people were shot and 18 died last week. We’re not gonna put up with that.”

Crime in some major cities has indeed spiked in recent months. Data provided by police departments in New York City and Chicago showed upticks in shootings and homicide victims in June leading into July, compared with the same time last year. Philadelphia police reported a double-digit increase in homicide victims as of July 8, compared with the same point in 2019.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House after receiving a briefing from law enforcement on "Keeping American Communities Safe: The Takedown of Key MS-13 Criminal Leaders" on July 15th 2020 in Washington DC.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
President Trump in the Oval Office on Wednesday. (Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)

Chicago, where crime has remained mostly steady this year, reported 1,541 shootings as of July 12, compared with 1,059 at the same time last year, according to data from the police department.

The department’s stats show that 93 people were shot between July 5 and July 12; 31 people were murdered.

In New York City, where crime has been declining for decades, data shows 717 shooting victims this year as of July 5, a 63 percent increase from the same period last year. A 1-year-old boy was killed Sunday night after two gunmen opened fire at a cookout, the New York Times reported.

“We do know that in a number of cities, crime has spiked very abruptly,” Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri, told Yahoo News on Wednesday. “And the size of the increases that we see in many places, New York City would be one, is troubling.”

Because the spike in crime is so new, experts have said it’s too soon to determine whether it is the start of a long-term trend or just a blip. They also said multiple factors — the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and strained relations between police and communities — could play a role in the surge.

Police direct pedestrians away from the crime scene of a shooting in the Crown Heights neighborhood which left one dead and five injured, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Police direct pedestrians away from the crime scene of a shooting in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn that left one dead and five injured on Wednesday. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

When asked about federal intervention, Rosenfeld said the federal government already plays a significant role in aiding local officials with crime prevention efforts.

Among a few examples, Rosenfeld said, is the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) Office at the Department of Justice. The program offers grants to local law enforcement agencies.

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in 2017 a partnership aimed at reducing violent crime in multiple cities, including Indianapolis and Memphis.

“So if there’s going to be federal intervention,” Rosenfeld said, “those are the pathways for the intervention — they already exist.”

Trump hinted at an announcement next week regarding the issue. He declined to offer details when asked by a reporter, but said it’s “something that I think at this point the American people want to see.”


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