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Is Crime A 'Blue State' Problem? 'Red' States Have More Murders

Republicans have kept up a consistent message: Democrats can’t be trusted to keep you safe. “Alvin Bragg … is going after President Trump when you have all kinds of things happening in his town that are harmful to families who live there,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), one of Trump’s top allies in Congress, after the Democratic Manhattan prosecutor in March indicted Trump for allegedly falsifying business records. Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, appeared to be ignoring data that shows New York is one of the nation's safest cities. As the pandemic upended the economy and day-to-day life in 2020, homicides shot up by 30%, the largest one-year jump on record. Republicans used crime concerns, as a cudgel against Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives two years later. Third Way, a center-left think tank, has found that states that voted for Trump in the 2020 election had higher murder rates than those supporting Joe Biden. The “red state murder gap”, has been consistent for 20 years. The pattern remains the same even if the most populous county in each red state is excluded – undercutting an argument common on the right that large cities, which tend to be led by Democrats, are to blame for homicides, reports The Guardian.

“There’s a narrative out there that the crime problem is a blue states, blue city crime problem,” said Third Way's Jim Kessler. “We thought ... let’s see if it’s true.’ And it’s not.” What’s harder to tease out is why this split exists, and even the degree to which political factors are to blame for it. Many of the worst-affected states are in the south, a region that has had historically higher murder rates. Although crime is a national political issue, local authorities such as mayors and police officials often have the most powerful roles in ensuring public safety. “I think it’s very difficult to put a partisan spin on this,” said Jeff Asher of AH Datalytics, which tracks crime justice data. “I think that you can maybe say that places with state legislatures that are not focused on finding effective solutions to gun violence, you could place that blame on them. But generally … gun violence is local, and it’s usually local causes rather than statewide or federal causes.” . Before Mississippi overtook it in 2019 and 2020, Louisiana led the nation in homicides per capita from 2000 to 2018. Its most populous city, New Orleans, ranked among the most murder-plagued. Asher, who lives in the city, blamed that on a range of factors, from police failure to solve many homicides to a lack of employment and educational opportunities.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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