Beto O'Rourke tweets at Sarah Huckabee Sanders about El Paso's safety ranking

On Jan. 15, 2018, Sarah Huckabee Sanders posted the tweet to the left and Beto O'Rourke of Texas responded with the tweet on the right.
On Jan. 15, 2018, Sarah Huckabee Sanders posted the tweet to the left and Beto O'Rourke of Texas responded with the tweet on the right.

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.