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Members of the public watch Pete Buttigieg's closing statement at a Fox News town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 26, 2020. (Tina Dyakon/PolitiFact) Members of the public watch Pete Buttigieg's closing statement at a Fox News town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 26, 2020. (Tina Dyakon/PolitiFact)

Members of the public watch Pete Buttigieg's closing statement at a Fox News town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 26, 2020. (Tina Dyakon/PolitiFact)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher February 25, 2020

Violent crime in South Bend did not double during Pete Buttigieg's time as mayor

If Your Time is short

  • A seeming increase in FBI figures for violent crime in South Bend is not because violent incidents doubled. 

  • It’s due to a change in the way police count assaults. That is, it’s a change in the definition of the most common violent crime, not a significant increase in violent crime itself.

A conservative commentator attacked the mayoral record of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, using data to show how the city of South Bend, Ind., became less safe under his watch.

"Violent crime in South Bend doubled during Mayor Pete’s tenure," said the headline on Bongino.com, the web home for content shared and created by radio host Dan Bongino.

The article was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Bongino uses charts to suggest that violent crime spiked during Buttigieg’s two terms, which ran from Jan. 1, 2012, to Jan. 1, 2020. 

At first glance the claim appears to be backed up with the gold standard of violent crime statistics — the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. 

But there’s more to this story: South Bend changed how it reported the numbers to the FBI, making it appear that violent crime experienced an alarming spike under Buttigieg’s leadership. That isn’t what happened. Let’s take a look.

Violent crime defined

The FBI says violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

South Bend reported 744 violent crimes to the FBI in 2011 — the year before Buttigieg took office.

In 2012, Buttigieg’s first year as mayor, the number fell to 622 — a drop of 16%.

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Then, violent crimes rose in 2013, 2014 and 2015 — but still remained lower than 2011.

After that, the numbers get tricky.

In 2016, based on advice from the FBI, South Bend police changed how it counted aggravated assaults — and the number of violent crimes reported by South Bend spiked, exceeding 1,000 in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Previously, South Bend had not been counting instances where a weapon was shown or implied as an aggravated assault, said Jeff Asher, data analyst and consultant at AH Datalytics who has written in the New York Times about violent crime in South Bend. 

"The evidence is telling us that South Bend didn’t become more violent; it simply changed how it counted assaults," he wrote.

The FBI noted the issue in comparing annual totals in South Bend from 2016 forward this way:  "Because of changes in" South Bend's "reporting practices, figures are not comparable to previous years' data."

Similarly, the FBI changed its definition of rape in 2013, which led to an increase in rape figures nationwide, Asher said.

A Wall Street Journal editorial also took Buttigieg to task, saying an increase in violent crime in South Bend outpaced that of Indiana as a whole. But the editorial also noted the change in how South Bend counts violent crimes. 

Our ruling


An article shared on Facebook claims: "Violent crime in South Bend doubled during Mayor Pete’s tenure."

The raw numbers suggest such an increase — but not because the number of violent crimes doubled.

What happened is that, based on guidance from the FBI, South Bend changed the way it defined a type of assault, and counting of that violent crime increased significantly. The FBI said South Bend’s violent crime numbers from 2016 forward can’t be compared with those from previous years.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

Our Sources

Bongino.com, "Violent crime in South Bend doubled during Mayor Pete’s tenure," Feb. 10, 2020

Email, Pete Buttigieg campaign spokesman Matt Corridoni, Feb. 18, 2020

FBI, "Indiana — Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2011," accessed Feb. 15, 2020

FBI, "Indiana — Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2012," accessed Feb. 15, 2020

FBI, "Indiana — Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2013," accessed Feb. 15, 2020

FBI, "Indiana — Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2014," accessed Feb. 15, 2020

FBI, "Indiana — Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2015," accessed Feb. 15, 2020

FBI, "Indiana — Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2016," accessed Feb. 15, 2020

FBI, "Indiana — Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2017," accessed Feb. 15, 2020

FBI, "Indiana — Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2018," accessed Feb. 15, 2020

New York Times, "South Bend and St. Louis, Where Crime Statistics Can Mislead," Dec. 17, 2019

Interview, Jeff Asher, data analyst and consultant at AH Datalytics, Feb. 25, 2020

South Bend Police Department, "Part I Crimes Annual Totals (through 2017)," accessed Feb. 18, 2020

Email, South Bend police Sgt. James Maxey, Feb. 18, 2020

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Violent crime in South Bend did not double during Pete Buttigieg's time as mayor

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