Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
We’ve previously found flaws in claims that El Paso ranks among the nation’s safest cities.
This week, though, a Texas Democrat hoping to fill the Senate seat held by Republican Ted Cruz brought up such rankings in rebuffing a pro-border-wall claim by President Donald Trump’s spokeswoman. Democratic U. S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso responded to a Monday tweet from the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in which Sanders suggested El Paso’s status as one of America’s safest cities could be traced to enhanced fencing between El Paso and neighboring Ciudad Juarez.
In her tweet, Sanders linked to a Jan. 13 Paul Sperry commentary in the New York Post that said: "Federal data show a far-less imposing wall than the one Trump envisions -- a two-story corrugated metal fence first erected under the Bush administration -- already has dramatically curtailed both illegal border crossings and crime in Texas’ sixth-largest city, which borders the high-crime Mexican city of Juarez."
O’Rourke’s tweet: "Walls have nothing to do with it. We’ve been ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd safest city for last 20 years, including before any wall. In addition to great law enforcement, our safety is connected to the fact that we are a city of immigrants."
Last April, we rated Half True an O’Rourke reference to El Paso as the safest city in Texas and the nation. O’Rourke had relied on disputed rankings by CQ Press drawing--against the FBI’s advice--on FBI-published crime-rate statistics. The bureau has repeatedly advised against using its data to compare communities.
Notably too, the rankings cited by O’Rourke didn't consider every Texas burg nor did they account for differences in population density. The most-crowded U.S. cities with 500,000 residents or more with the lowest CQ Press crime rates were: New York; Boston; Los Angeles; Seattle; San Francisco; Chicago; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Milwaukee; and Baltimore--with Texas cities not making the cut.
In 2013, we found Half True a statement by Veronica Escobar, El Paso’s county judge, that the city was the safest of its size in the nation. At that time, we confirmed that CQ Press had stopped attaching the "safest" label to its rankings because the label conveys perception rather than fact.
Previously, in 2011, we found Mostly False a claim by state Sen. José Rodríguez that El Paso had been named America’s "Safest Large City" a year after San Antonio, Houston and Dallas had the nation’s highest crime rates. A spokesman for the El Paso Police Department told us the department used the "Safest Large City" designation in solely one press release and did not repeat it, in part because of objections to CQ Press rankings raised by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Also, we found, the other Texas cities named by Rodriguez did not have the nation’s highest overall crime rates; that was true only in comparison to a few huge cities.
Tweet, "Ask El Paso, Texas (now one of America's safest cities) across the border from Juarez, Mexico (one of the world's most dangerous) if a wall works," Sarah Sanders (@PressSec), Jan. 15, 2018
Tweet, "Walls have nothing to do with it. We’ve been ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd safest city for last 20 years, including before any wall. In addition to great law enforcement, our safety is connected to the fact that we are a city of immigrants. We treat eachother with respect & dignity," Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke), Jan. 15, 2018
Commentary, Paul Sperry, "This town is proof that Trump’s wall can work," New York Post, Jan. 13, 2018
Truth-O-Meter articles, PolitiFact Texas, "José Rodríguez says El Paso was named 'Safest Large City,'" Oct. 11, 2001; "El Paso leader says El Paso 'safest' city of its size in country," May 30, 2013; "Beto O'Rourke relies on disputed rankings to call El Paso America's safest city," April 14, 2017