Las Vegas Police Department Contradicts David Barton's Claims About Decline in Violent Crime

Recently, David Barton told an audience that violent crime in Las Vegas has declined 75% due to the use of biblical principles by that city’s police department and churches. Listen (clip courtesy of Right Wing Watch):

There are so many problems with his analysis that it is hard to know where to begin. On the matter of religious schools and achievement, Barton completely ignores the fact that those who attend religious schools have been chosen to go there. The students have not been randomly assigned to public versus private schools for a fair comparison. The private schools can eliminate students who aren’t performing well or misbehaving, and they don’t have to worry about providing an education for students with disabilities or learning disorders. Private schools can select their students to create a higher achieving result.
Because the claim about Las Vegas crime rates is a new one, I decided to check it out with the Las Vegas Police Department. Lo and behold, Barton is again wrong.
Barton told the Patriot and Preacher radio audience:

But when God is reintroduced back into policy, for instance, in Las Vegas, the churches there worked with the police department to teach morals in the city, the violent crime rate has gone down 75 percent in Las Vegas by the reintroduction of biblical teachings back in the city through the police department and the churches.

I sent the above audio to the Las Vegas PD Office of Public Information and asked if Barton’s claims were true. About the claim of a 75% decline in crime, Officer Rodriquez said flatly, “That is not true.”
Rodriguez added, “Sadly, we’re seeing an increase in violent crime year to date as compared to the same period last year.” For the calendar year 2016 thus far, homicide is up 79% over last year (1/1 — 3/16/15). Violent crime overall is up 24.8% in Las Vegas as compared to the same period in 2015.
While the LVPD collaborates with faith based groups around Las Vegas, Rodriguez said “officers are not preaching and teaching the Bible” in the community.  Furthermore, the department collaborates with all religious groups in the same manner. They work with Jewish, Muslim, and other non-Christian groups to build bridges.
Not surprisingly, Barton’s claims about crime in Las Vegas fail the fact checking test.
Mostly, this would be an annoyance if not for the fact that David Barton advises Ted Cruz. I am working on a post which demonstrates that BartonCruz Cruz Barton and Cruz promote very similar incorrect facts about climate change. Cruz has been known to play a little fast and loose with the facts and he uses Glenn Beck as a surrogate. It is one thing to simply be mistaken, it is another thing when those easily debunked falsehoods make it into policy provisions. Can you imagine a David Barton appointment to a policy making post in a Cruz administration? I can imagine needless fact-free debates over AIDS, PTSD, climate change, crime rates, etc.

David Barton: The Bible in Schools and Violent Crime

In two recent sermons (Whitesburg Baptist Church – AL; Crossroads Church – OK), David Barton told his audience that violent crime has increased 694% since the 1963 Supreme Court decision on Bible reading in schools. Barton cited Benjamin Rush as a founding father who believe the Bible should be in schools. According to Barton, Rush warned that crime would increase if the Bible was ever removed from education.
To his audience at Crossroads (36 minutes into the video), Barton showed this chart as proof of his contention.
This is difficult to see but I have added some notations in yellow. The chart shows number of violent offenses from 1951 through 1993. Crime gradually increased from the 1950s and spiked upward from the early 1960s to the early 1990s. However, does anyone know what happened after that?
If you said violent crime rates began a pattern of decline, you would be correct. Barton doesn’t show what happened after 1993. Click the link to use the FBI data tool to get the numbers. Click here to see a chart of the crime rates from 1960 to 2010.  According to the FBI stats, the violent crime rate in 2010 was the lowest since 1972 and has been falling steadily since 1991. The murder rate is the same as it was in 1961. This chart provides the rest of the history about overall violent crime rates that Barton didn’t tell.


There are many theories about this pattern but suffice it to say that these data do not support Barton’s contention. During the rest of his sermon, Barton decries the Biblical illiteracy of today’s church and cites questionable statistics about divorce rates and other indicators of general decline. If anything, according to Barton, things are worse now than ever. If Barton’s theory was correct, then why would crime rates be falling?
As noted, many theories exist but the pattern of increase and decline probably do not reflect the presence or absence of the Bible in schools.
UPDATE (6/26/13): Also relevant to Barton’s theory is a comparison of the United States with other nations. Good numbers are hard to come by but let’s start with the UN data on homicide (excel file). Historically Shinto and Buddhist but practically non-religious Japan boasts a very low rate (.4) versus the United States (4.8).  Norway (.6) and Sweden (1.0) record low rates despite being quite secular.
Another factor that should be added to any discussion is the fact the Bible had been long gone from many public schools before the 1963 decision. The Cincinnati Bible wars were waged between 1869 and 1871, with the result being the removal of Bible from Cincinnati schools.