Trump’s Distortions of Crime, Violence, Drugs and Youth

Trump Lies
How does a rigorously fact-based organization respond to President Donald Trump, who shows no interest in factual discussion of serious American issues like crime, violence, and drugs? In his February 28, 2017, address to Congress, Trump declared, “The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.” In fact, 2015’s murder increase (up six percentage points from 2014, coming after a 47 percentage point decline in the murder rate since 1990 to historically low levels) was not the largest, either by percentage or absolute increase, over that period.

Unfortunately, this readily-checked factual issue pales alongside the dangerously prejudicial falsification of American crime, drugs, and immigration issues Trump perpetrates.

According to Trump, the “terrible drug epidemic” in the US can be blamed on immigrants and foreign “criminal cartels” who are “poisoning our youth” by bringing drugs into the county at an “unprecedented rate.” Crime and violence, Trump declared, is caused by “gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.” The president’s remedy? New task forces on “Reducing Violent Crime” and “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement” in departments concerned with foreign and national security threats.

Unfortunately, this readily-checked factual issue pales alongside the dangerously prejudicial falsification of American crime, drugs, and immigration issues Trump perpetrates.

Trump’s address reveals dangerous misconceptions. While some localities did experienced increased crime in 2015, both this increase and America’s drug epidemic have virtually nothing to do with immigrants, foreigners, or youth.

Trump’s address reveals dangerous misconceptions. While some localities did experienced increased crime in 2015, both this increase and America’s drug epidemic have virtually nothing to do with immigrants, foreigners, or youth.

Centers for Disease Control figures show the opiate epidemic is in fact concentrated among suburban and rural, White, and middle-aged populations – the demographic that most supported Trump – where addictions to American-produced prescription drugs and alcohol are driving surges in fatal overdose and incarceration. Of the record 52,404 Americans who died from overdoses of illicit drugs in 2015, 80 percent were White, and 70 percent were 35 and older. Deaths from drug overdoses or gunshots are now much higher among middle-aged, White populations in West Virginia and Kentucky than among Hispanic young adults in Chicago or Los Angeles.

While some localities did experienced increased crime in 2015, both this increase and America’s drug epidemic have virtually nothing to do with immigrants, foreigners, or youth.

Unfortunately, the last two Democratic presidencies of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton also largely ignored and misrepresented the realities of America’s drug crisis and violent crime. Those rightly worried about the punitive, race-based extremism Trump has now brought to these issues should stand up for the fact-based policies we claim to represent.

California, the state most affected by immigration and racial change – 83 percent of its urban youth are now non-White – boasts among the largest crime and violence declines in the country, especially among young people in cities. California also has weathered the opiate drug epidemic much better than other states, and today has one of the nation’s lowest rates of urban violence and drug overdose.

California’s remarkable trends powerfully refute the irrational fears coming out of the Trump administration and deserve priority attention from those defending diversity and progressive gains.

Mike Males
Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice

About Mike Males

Mike A. Males is a Senior Research Fellow at CJCJ. He has contributed research and co-authored numerous CJCJ publications, including on issues of drug policy, 3-strikes law, criminal justice realignment, and juvenile justice reform.

Dr. Males has a Ph.D. in Social Ecology from U.C. Irvine and over 12 years of experience working in youth programs. He is also content director of Youth Facts (www.YouthFacts.org)

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