CLAIM: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) says crime hit “50-year lows” in California, despite higher crime rates than the national average.
VERDICT: MOSTLY FALSE. National rates overall are lower than decades ago, but crime in California has risen in recent years.
Newsom claimed in his debate on the Fox News Channel with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that crime rates are at “50-year lows” in his state “since the 1990s.”
DeSantis did not miss the opportunity to point out that Newsom’s claim contrasted with the experience of most California residents, who have seen a retail exodus from San Francisco due to shoplifting, and who find even common items at convenience stores “under lock and key” because of the problem of theft in other California cities as well.
Left-wing prosecutors, such as (now-ousted) Chesa Boudin in San Francisco and George Soros-backed George Gascón in Los Angeles, have declined to prosecute many violent felons, and are widely blamed by the public for the decline in public safety.
Newsom is basing his claim on the fact that crime has, in fact, declined nationwide, including in California. But as host Sean Hannity pointed out in his question, California’s crime rate is higher than the national average — which Newsom did not explain.
The Public Policy Institute of California noted on November 1:
Recently released FBI crime data from two-thirds of the country’s law enforcement agencies indicate that California’s violent crime rate is increasingly diverging from the national trend: as of 2022, it is 31% higher than the US rate. This divergence is driven largely by aggravated assaults, which have been declining nationwide while rising in California.
When we look at trends since 2010, we see that California’s violent crime rate trend roughly mirrored the nationwide trend in the decade before the pandemic. The California-US violent crime rate gap widened from 10% to 15% in 2015, partly due to an adjustment in Los Angeles Police Department reporting after the agency was found to have significantly underreported aggravated assaults from 2008 to 2014. During the pandemic, however, the gap grew from 15% in 2019 to 31% by 2022. Less striking but noteworthy, while property crime increased nationally and in California in 2022, nationwide it is down by 8% compared to the pre-pandemic level, while in California it is now 1% higher.
Newsom’s hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, said the following last month:
California’s violent crime rate increased for the second year in a row in 2022, while violence in the United States overall declined. But the state’s property crime increased only modestly and in line with the rest of the country.
California followed the national trends; its homicide rates, which are lower than the broader U.S. rate, went up by 39% from 2019 to 2021, then back down again by 5% in 2022.
California’s overall violent crime rate in 2022 stood at 500 reported crimes per 100,000 people, the highest it’s been since 2008 but still low relative to the highs of the 1980s and 90s.