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Why Trump thinks he understands Chicago crime

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

It's way too early to break out the champagne but Chicago found some good news for a change in its year-end homicide count. You'll know the news is really great when President Donald Trump tries to take credit for it.

After two of its worst years in the past two decades, the city saw a roughly 16 percent decrease in homicides in 2017 compared with 2016 -- the city's steepest one-year decline in nearly 15 years.

That's a blessing. Even though it means the city still had 650 killings, according to data kept by the Chicago Tribune, that's down from 771 the previous year. Most of the drop came in the second half of the year, so the numbers are trending in the right direction.

Yet President Trump, echoing some of the conservative commentators he likes to watch on television, constantly calls out Chicago as his leading example of the "American carnage" he described in his inauguration address.

Listening to Trump, you might never guess that there are smaller cities that have had more murders per capita, the usual standard for comparison. So why are conservatives so obsessed with Chicago?

"Daily Show" host Trevor Noah figured it out after playing clips of right-wing commentators complaining that President Barack Obama was "failing" his hometown. "When there's shootings, Obama is from Chicago. All the other times he's from Kenya."

Ha, ha. Of course, it would not be totally fair to say conservatives only care about using Chicago's homicide rate to score political points. Some liberals do that, too. But unfortunately the more sensible voices on both sides too often get drowned out by those who would rather stir up tribal rivalries and resentments.

"More than two homicide victims per day." Trump lamented in a July tweet. "What the hell is going on in Chicago? Better tell that mayor to get tough."

Get tough? Meaning what? Trump's version of toughness on crime tends to sound like a warmed-over version of President Richard Nixon's lock-'em-up "law and order" platform from the 1960s with little regard for the lessons that police and urban leaders have learned about what really works and what doesn't.

For example, Trump opposes "sanctuary cities" without regard to how much police officials say fear of deportation prevents many undocumented crime victims from calling police or cooperating with investigators.

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(c) 2018 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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