On his program this week, HBO comedy show host John Oliver mocked my suggestion, in defense of Donald Trump, that crime is on the rise.
Oliver said I prioritized feelings over facts in arguing that America is becoming less safe. He focused on a CNN interview in which the host insisted that crime is declining, and claimed that the American people’s concerns about safety run contrary to fact.
Setting aside the irony of CNN complaining that anyone would sensationalize crime, the host was wrong. In fact, crime is rising in America, even if the left doesn’t want to admit it.
The executions of police officers in the streets, the clear and growing terror threat, and the increasing crime rates in our cities are real phenomena.
In Chicago, there are over 70 percent more murders this year than there were in 2014. If the trend continues, the Windy City will record well above 600 murders in 2016.
The latest data from the FBI says that homicides rose nationwide by 6.2 percent, while rape jumped 9.6 percent in the first half of 2015 over the same period in 2014.
An analysis of 56 major cities by University of Missouri-St. Louis Professor Richard Rosenfeld found that murders in those cities had increased 16-17 percent in that time--a spike that Michael Barone, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, called “unprecedented.”
It’s important to remember that this data is more than a year old. All indications are that crime has since gotten worse, not better.
A new report this week from the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association found that in 51 large cities surveyed, violent crime has continued to worsen this year (it’s up 2.4 percent), with the murder rate increasing by more than 15 percent.
So John Oliver and CNN were wrong about the facts. But just as importantly, they’re wrong to sneer about the public sentiment, which is driven by real, persistent problems.
After a month in which five police officers were murdered in Dallas, three were murdered in Baton Rouge, and two were murdered in Michigan, it is no surprise people feel as if the streets are more dangerous.
In addition, Americans know that the threat from terrorism is perhaps greater than ever before. The atrocities in San Bernardino and Orlando were the two deadliest terror attacks on American soil since September 11, 2011. Add to those the almost daily attacks we are seeing in Europe. We have little reason to be confident in our safety.
Meanwhile, in our poorest communities, innocent people are caught in the crossfire of gang turf wars. For example, in Baltimore, the situation is so bad that schools hold a celebration for elementary school graduation because there is such fear that many of the graduates will not reach their next graduations in middle and high school.
The executions of police officers in the streets, the clear and growing terror threat, and the increasing crime rates in our cities are real phenomena. And despite smug laugh lines from the likes of John Oliver, the American people are reasonably concerned. A recent Gallup poll found that the number of Americans who worry about crime “a great deal” is higher than at any time since 2001.
Given the world around us, Donald Trump’s call for a return to “law and order” is not foolish. It is supported by both the facts and the feelings of millions of Americans.
To mock these feelings may amuse those who are comfortable and safe watching cable television in wealthy neighborhoods. But it is an insult to the innocent citizens and law enforcement officers being killed, and to the millions of other Americans who fear for their families’ safety.
Newt Gingrich, a Republican, was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He is the author of the new novel "Treason" (Center Street, October 11) and co-author, with his wife Callista Gingrich, of "Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation's History and Future" (Center Street, May 17, 2016).