Mayor Byron Brown tells voters that crime before the pandemic consistently fell in Buffalo.
“We’ve seen, before the pandemic, from 2006 to 2019, year after year, crime in various categories and crime overall, has actually gone down in the city of Buffalo,” Brown said in an interview with radio station WBEN. “Unfortunately, in 2020, as we’ve dealt with this pandemic and we’ve had to police in a different way, and in 2021, as we continue to deal with the pandemic, we have seen an increase in crime as communities all across the nation have seen an increase in crime, but before that, crime had been falling, every year, year after year, in the city of Buffalo.”
Brown has made versions of this claim before. He returned to it Thursday in a debate with Democratic nominee India Walton and two other candidates, saying “from 2006 to 2019 crime overall in the city of Buffalo went down year after year after year.”
Brown, a four-term mayor, launched a write-in campaign to win re-election after losing the Democratic primary to Walton. And he has also mounted a legal effort to get his name on the ballot as an independent candidate. Crime has emerged an important issue in the campaign.
So, we looked at the numbers to see if his claim holds up.
We reached out to the Brown administration, which provided statistics for seven major crime categories: homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.
Since Brown’s claim is about crime between 2006, when he became mayor, and 2019, before the pandemic began, we consider only those years here. The data shows occurrences of all seven of the major crimes fell from 2006 to 2019, both overall and within each category.
Taken together, the crimes fell by 44% between 2006 and 2019. There was a year-over-year decrease every year, except in 2007, when crime increased by 1.7%, and in 2018, when it increased by two-tenths of a percent.
To give context to the crime trends over Brown’s tenure before the pandemic, we looked at each crime category. In none of the crime categories did the number fall every year.
• Homicides. Down 36% from 2006 to 2019, but five years had increases, ranging from 7% to 65%.
• Rapes. Reports down 26%, but seven years had increases – more years than when the number of rapes decreased.
• Robberies. Down 52%, but four years had increases, ranging from 1% to less than 6%.
• Assaults. Down 22%, but three years had increases, ranging from 5% to 13%.
• Burglaries. Down 64%, but two years had increases, one 8%, the other 5%.
• Larcenies. Down 32%, but four years had mostly modest increases.
• Motor vehicle theft. Down 69%, but three years had increases.
We also looked at crime data on the CitiStat website, where the city publishes statistics that are searchable by the public. CitiStat offers slightly different figures for the crimes by year, and shows a consistent decline between 2008, the first year of the dataset, and 2019. In 2018, the CitiStat data is more favorable to Brown than what the administration gave PolitiFact New York. CitiStat shows total crimes dropped by 367 in 2018.
We also looked at data kept by New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services and by the FBI. The sets are similar, though the FBI’s online data sets go further back in time. The data was similar to the city’s data, though there are differences in some figures. FBI data showed that crime went up slightly in 2007 and in 2018, as the city data showed.
Christopher R. Herrmann, who analyzed statistics as a member of the New York City Police Department and is an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, looked at crime data from Buffalo CitiStat, the state and the FBI between 2016 and 2020. His analysis found that more often, CitiStat data showed less crime occured than state and federal data.
Buffalo Police Department Deputy Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia said that the city’s data is based on real-time data as it comes in, but when the city reports data to the FBI, it’s reported in intervals.
“We work very diligently to be as accurate as possible with the data,” Gramaglia said.
Brown claimed that before the pandemic, “crime had been falling, every year, year after year, in the city of Buffalo.”
Crime did fall during his tenure until the pandemic. Overall, crime fell by 44% between 2006 and 2019. There were two years where the decline was not consistent. In 2007, overall crime increased by 1.7 percent, and in 2018, overall crime increased by .2 percent. In addition, every category of crime had some increases in between, along with some decreases through the years.
We rate his statement Mostly True.
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