Newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made his first public speech in office on Feb. 28. In it, he argued that the nation was "in danger" from an increase in violent crime.
"We need to return to the ideas that got us here -- the ideas that reduce crime and stay on it," said Sessions, according to CNN. He asserted that a recent uptick in the U.S. murder rate did not reflect an "aberration" or "one-time blip" but rather "the beginning of a trend."
Sessions then added that "crime does follow drugs," going on to add that "drugs today are more powerful and more addictive." He noted that he plans to crack down on illegal access to prescription drugs and also distanced himself from the previous administration's hands-off approach to states that have legalized recreational marijuana: "I am dubious about marijuana -- I'm not sure we're going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store."
Sessions' assertion that the murder and violent crime rates are spiking mirrors President Donald Trump's controversial claims on Feb. 7 that the murder rate "is the highest it's been in 47 years," notes CNN.
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During a listening session with county sheriffs from around the country, Trump said: "I'd say that in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn't like to tell it like it is. It wasn't to their advantage to say that. The murder rate is the highest it's been in I guess 45-47 years."
While 2014 to 2015 did represent the most significant one-year increase in the U.S. murder rate in 50 years, NPR reports that the 2015 U.S. murder rate was 4.9 out of every 100,000 people -- a lower murder rate than reported in any year between 1965 and 2009, and far lower than the peak rate of 10.2 out of every 100,000 people reported in 1980. From 2010 to 2014, though, the murder rate dropped to historic lows, with 2014 seeing a murder rate of 4.5 out of every 100,000 people.
According to the Washington Post, most criminal justice experts prefer to avoid extrapolating from small sets of data and say that they usually look at longer periods of time when determining trends -- a minimum of five years and ideally 10 to 20 years.