Mayor Adrian Fenty’s re-election campaign is all about numbers. He claims he preserved or created 11,000 affordable housing units, school test scores have risen 11 percent, and the crime rate has fallen to levels unseen in decades.
That last talking point is being repeated by incumbents across the country since crime has fallen pretty much everywhere in the country for reasons no one has been able to pinpoint. So crime comparisons are already somewhat meaningless. But the mayor has made a much bigger claim. At the Ward 4 Democrats mayoral forum and straw poll last week and a Ward 8 forum last night, he said crime was down more in the District than in any other jurisdiction in the country. We assume he was talking about violent crime because property crime in the District has actually increased during his term.
But violent crime fell 6.7 percent in D.C. from 2008 to 2009 (Fenty keeps saying it was 7 percent), an impressive number. And homicides are at their lowest total in 40 years. Does that make the District's drop the largest in the nation?
Find out after the jump.
A few notes about the statistics we’re going to be using to check this: The simplest way to measure crime is through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data, which only tracks violent crime and property crime. The UCR isn't perfect, but it’s the best possible way to compare crime rates in different jurisdictions and over time. We should also note that comparing jurisdictions is a notoriously tricky proposition and the FBI warns against doing it without accounting for a multitude of factors.
As for Fenty’s claim that the District’s drop in violent crime was the highest of any jurisdiction in the county, it’s simply wrong. A quick look at the FBI data show Phoenix had a 16.6 percent drop, Oakland, Calif. had one of 14.3 percent and Orlando saw violent crime free fall, declining 26.5 percent. Those drops from 2008 to 2009 are all at least twice as large as the District’s.
Even over the course of Fenty's entire term, crime has dropped just 10 percent in the District, compared to 34.5 percent in Orlando.
Fenty's claim that the District had the largest drop in violent crime of any jurisdiction in the country is Total Malarkey.