OKLAHOMA CITY — A crime statistic used in a gubernatorial debate by candidate Joy Hofmeister has garnered some national attention and a lot of debate.
Hofmeister, a Democrat, said during Wednesday’s debate in Oklahoma City that “the rates of violent crime are higher in Oklahoma under (Gov. Kevin Stitt’s) watch than in New York and California. That’s a fact.”
Stitt, a Republican, interrupted Hofmeister, saying that was not true. He then asked the crowd if they believed that Oklahoma has higher crime than New York or California.
Hofmeister’s statement is true, but it should be put into context to show a broader picture.
Her campaign said later that the statement was based on information from the FBI.
According to FBI crime data for 2020, Oklahoma had a higher violent crime rate — 458.6 per 100,000 people — than California’s or New York’s rate.
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The 2020 rate for California was 442. The rate for New York was 363.8. The national average rate was 398.5.
Complete data for more recent years was not available.
It would not be true to say Oklahoma had more violent crime, just more violent crime per capita, said David Gateley, an Oklahoma Policy Institute criminal justice policy analyst.
New York and California have significantly higher populations than Oklahoma, he said.
But “I would say this is not a new trend for Oklahoma,” Gateley added. Oklahoma has had higher violent crime rates for decades, he said.
According to FBI data going back to 1985, Oklahoma has had a higher violent crime rate per capita than the national rate since about 2001.
During former Republican Gov. Mary Fallin’s last full year in the office, 2018, the state had a violent crime rate of 474.6 per 100,000, compared with 447.5 for California and 350.8 for New York, according to the FBI data.
Stitt took office in January 2019. The rate for that year was 436.3.
Oklahoma’s violent crime rate has dropped overall since 2008, when it was 531.5 per 100,000 people, compared with 458.6 per 100,000 in 2020, according to FBI data.
Donelle Harder, Stitt’s campaign manager, did not return a phone call seeking comment.