WASHINGTON, DC – Mainstream media has seized on a misleading report to claim that the country’s crime rate lowered last year, despite Americans watching the rise of violence on their television sets nightly.
NBC News published an article with the headline, “Overall crime decreased in 2020.” The article went on to say that the report created by the Third Way group dispelled the “popular perceptions” that crime rose nationwide.
— Barbie P. (@BarbieLuvsDJT) September 23, 2021
Third Way calls itself a “think tank that champions modern center-left ideas,” and its analysis of crime data is skewed in that direction.
The report took data from 22 states representing multiple types of crime, including theft and violent crime, and lumped them into one overall category. NBC News then seized on the findings to claim crime had decreased.
NBC published an article echoing the findings of the Third Way report, written by Sahil Kapur and Jon Schuppe. In the article they wrote:
“As Republicans revive familiar warnings about out-of-control crime in pursuit of regaining power, the prominent moderate Democratic group Third Way has a different message for the party: Don’t take the bait; it’s a lie.
“A new report by Third Way digs into the numbers and concludes: ‘Contrary to the media narrative, overall crime decreased in 2020 compared to 2019.’”
Third Way put out a report that was quickly picked up by the media claiming that there's a "hysteria" about crime and that it's actually going down. Is a historic rise in shootings and homicides no big deal because petty theft is down? https://t.co/uAKAitqKPN
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) September 17, 2021
But, as Charles Fain Lehman of the Policing and Public Safety Initiative at the Manhattan Institute told Fox News, the report is “misleading at best.”
Lehman explained that the crime statistic lumping all crime into one category creates a false impression that crime has decreased, when in fact violent crime has surged in the last 16 months since the protests and riots in American cities following the death of George Floyd.
Lehman explained that although thefts make up a large majority of crimes, about four times more frequent than violent crime, the move to combine theft and violent crime into one category hides the rise in violent crime.
“The trend in the total number of crimes is mostly the trend in larceny-theft … it’s not a particularly useful statistic.”
A new report by Third Way digs into the numbers and concludes: “Contrary to the media narrative, overall crime decreased in 2020 compared to 2019.” https://t.co/P9a1bIHoA9
— NBC 7 San Diego (@nbcsandiego) September 13, 2021
Fox News looked at three specific areas where Third Way and NBC News allegedly misled readers. The first is the year-to-year comparisons of crime by Third Way.
Jim Kessler, Third Way’s executive vice president for policy, said the report disproves a belief that crime is surging:
“There seems to be a hysteria that began about a year and (a) half ago to try and convince Americans that we’re undergoing another crime wave.
“At a certain point, we just wanted to look at what the actual data was. And it doesn’t bear up.”
“What we’re seeing is really scant evidence of a crime wave.”
Do you want to join our private family of first responders and supporters? Get unprecedented access to some of the most powerful stories that the media refuses to show you. Proceeds get reinvested into having active, retired and wounded officers, their families and supporters tell more of these stories. Click to check it out.
Fox News points out that a closer inspection of the data shows that violent crime spiked just as social justice and police reform protests and riots broke out following the death of Floyd.
To support the claim, Fox News published a graph from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice that covered 18 American cities and went from January 2017 to March 2021. Although the graph shows a spike in aggravated assault each summer, the spike for summer 2020 was substantially more dramatic.
Violent crime surged across America despite liberal attempt to rewrite narrative https://t.co/wHwk0qtlrv
— Polish News (@PolishNews1) September 22, 2021
Lehman correlated the 2020 spike with the protests:
“Many cities saw spikes in the level of violence … in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests.”
The Commission’s report also included a graph showing a sharp rise in homicides during the same time period. According to the statistics, assaults and homicides remained at increased levels throughout the remainder of 2020 and remain high in 2021.
A second misrepresentation of the data came with a claim reported by Third Way and NBC News that there was no apparent correlation between calls for police reform and crime trends. Third Way lumped data into state-by-state numbers while ignoring the regional differences within each state.
FBI data shows that 2020 saw a large disparity between cities and towns when it came to crime. Maxim Lott, supervising producer at the John Stossel show on Fox Business and Fox News and a writer for FoxNews.com, explained:
“Cities with more than a million people saw a 3.9% rise in violent crimes, and those with between 500,000 and a million saw a 5.8% rise. Towns with fewer than 10,000 residents saw a decrease of 5.2%. Large cities had more ‘defund the police’ movements and related activism.”
Third Way’s report went on to say, “The early data does not indicate any correlation between police reforms and crime trends,” based on state legislation and executive orders. Lehman said those findings were also misleading:
“It is misleading to focus on the states — most criminal justice decision-making happens at the local level.”
With violent crimes on the rise 2 years in a row across the country, it is imperative that our #LawEnforcement receive proper training, sufficient resources, and support from community partnerships that reduce the stigma surrounding policing. #LasVegas #BackTheBlue https://t.co/UEauKQedgS
— Tom Roberts (@Roberts4Sheriff) September 9, 2021
He continued by pointing out that mayors and police chiefs make the “most important” decisions.
He added that Third Way’s measure of Republican/Democrat states was bizarrely simplistic:
“It’s just odd to differentiate ‘blue’ and ‘red’ states by governor’s party, a method of analysis that labels Massachusetts red and Kansas blue.”
Rafael Mangual, head of research for the Policing and Public Safety Initiative at the Manhattan Institute, added that local policies play a major role in rising crime rates:
“When police are sent a message that they are not going to be given a fair shake, they are going to be much less likely to be proactive and do what’s needed to decrease crime.”
An example can be found in Minneapolis following the death of Floyd. As calls for police reform rose, and police support fell in primarily Democratic large cities, proactive policing faded as police felt abandoned. In the city, police stops dropped to just one third of the level prior to the death of Floyd.
Coupled with prosecutors and politicians adopting policies of leniency toward criminals which “lowered the cost of breaking the law,” according to Mangual, rising violent crime in the big cities became unavoidable.
The last misleading category Fox News called Third Way and NBC News out for was lumping property and violent crime numbers into one overall statistic. This claim is incorrect and misleading because property crimes make up the vast majority of crimes, and property crimes fell dramatically mainly because of the pandemic.
"While much of the nation has experienced a dramatic increase in murders and other violent crimes, Pittsburgh has seen a 46% rise in shootings that left people injured and a similar percentage jump in homicides over the same time last year." https://t.co/jPh1sFGosx
— Charles McElwee (@CFMcElwee) August 22, 2021
The Commission report included a graph showing that larcenies, which are thefts that do not involve burglary or force, fell immediately as the pandemic began. Most of this correlation can be contributed to lockdowns and business closures related to the virus’s spread.
“People went home, and stores closed, reducing the opportunities for theft.”
Mangual was direct with placing blame on Third Way and NBC News for being misleading by claiming “overall crime fell” to fit a political narrative:
“It’s a common tactic among people who don’t want to make room for a discussion about more law enforcement as a solution.
“The crimes that we ought to most care about are absolutely up.”
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.