What you need to know before the Newsom-DeSantis debate


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took the stage at a debate in Simi Valley this fall and said three people – or was it seven? – walked away and told him they were being robbed in California, part of what he insisted was a crime sweeping the blue states.

Part of his desire to be president is that his home state is a relative safe haven. “You look at cities around the country, they have crime,” DeSantis said at his campaign launch in May. “In Florida, our crime rate is at a 50-year low.”

Sure – but that number relies on a bit of guesswork for more than a third of the state’s population. And the data is more than two years old. And even the old data is still based on estimates for about a quarter of the state.

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The Marshall Project reported last month that Florida police agencies that make up 40% of the state’s population are not reporting their numbers to the FBI. Instead, the state takes the actual numbers it has and estimates the rest based on population. That includes homicides — meaning no one, including DeSantis, can say with absolute accuracy how many people will be killed in his state in 2022.

Or 2021, for that matter. Even two years after crime data was collected for 2021 submission to the FBI, the state still estimates crimes for 24.1% of the population.

That’s not the case in California — where law enforcement agencies also have a spotty record of reporting their crime statistics to the FBI. But California’s internal count by the state Department of Justice gives a clear figure: 2,206 murders in 2022, 1,570 of them by guns.

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In 2021, the last year for which Florida statistics are available, the statewide homicide rate was 6.7 per 100,000 people.

In California in 2021, 6 people per 100,000. In 2022, it drops to 5.7 per 100,000 people. The overall trend in California, however, is not good: Between 2017 and 2022, the homicide rate increased by 24%.

In Florida, the same trend applies, although less dramatically: Between 2017 and 2021, the homicide rate increased 16%, from 6.4 per 100,000 people to 7.4.