PolitiFact: Sundheim false on crime stats

U.S. Senate candidates debate in San Diego. Left to right: Duf Sundheim, Kamala Harris, Loretta Sanchez, Ron Unz, Tom Del Beccaro. (Photo: KPBS)

Republican Duf Sundheim started on the attack at Wednesday’s debate in San Diego among five candidates vying to be California’s next U.S. senator.

But the GOP hopeful missed hard on a fact about the state’s violent crime rate. He used his opening remarks to criticize the race’s frontrunner, Democratic California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

“The PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California) recently reported that Kamala is failing to keep us safe,” Sundheim said May 10, 2016. “There is a 34 percent increase in violent crime in the state of California. … And that’s just within the last year.”

The PPIC, a nonpartisan think tank, reported no such thing.

What the PPIC said

The PPIC report cited by Sundheim doesn’t include final statewide violent crime data for 2015. It has preliminary statistics for January to June 2015 for 66 California cities covering about half of the state’s population.Logo 2

Brandon Martin, the co-author of the report and a research associate at the policy institute, told PolitiFact California that statewide crime statistics for 2015  won’t be available until this summer.

Moreoever, Sundheim misstated the preliminary data that the PPIC did have.

The authors of the report said 34 of the 66 California cities saw a double-digit percentage increase in violent crimes.

They never claimed that the state, or even the sample of cities, saw a 34 percentincrease in violent crime.

“I have not seen any data showing a 34 percent increase in crime in California in 2015. He made a mistake,” Magnus Lofstrum, the study’s author and a senior fellow at PPIC, told PolitiFact California.

The most recent full-year crime stats, from 2014, put the state’s violent crime rate ata 47-year low, according to the PPIC.

A spokeswoman for Sundheim’s campaign said, “Looking at the study, the wording is vague and our researchers believed that the ’34’ was in reference to the percent rise in violent crime.”

Our ruling

Sundheim said California’s violent crime rate increased 34 percent over the past year, citing a recent report.

Sundheim misread the report in question, it’s authors said.

We rate his claim False.

Ed’s Note: PolitiFact California appears with the permission of Capital Public Radio. Contact PolitiFact California on Twitter @CAPolitiFact or via email at with interesting or provocative claims made by presidential candidates while they’re stumping in California. We’ll review them for a possible fact check.

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