When politicians want to launch nasty, negative messages about their opponents, they often choose direct mail because it leaves fewer fingerprints than such other media as television, radio or print.
That looks like the path State General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is traveling in the waning days of the Democratic gubernatorial primary, which takes place September 9. Her camp has fired off a mail piece that blames Providence Mayor Angel Taveras for shootings in Providence.
Taveras is hammered for cutting police in Providence, a byproduct of the $110 million deficit he inherited when he took office in 2011. And the mail piece gives the impression that the streets of the capital city aren’t safe. It takes television clips and print articles about crime, without any context, to purportedly show what isn’t true – that murders and crime in Providence is up since Taveras took office.
Yet facts are stubborn things. What they show, according to data from the FBI and the R.I. state police, is that crime and homicides have declined since Taveras became mayor. As far as homicides go, there have never been more than 17 in any year Taveras served at City Hall. This compares to 1999, when there were 26 homicides in the city, and 2000 when there were 30. (Buddy Cianci was mayor during both of those years). In 2009, when David Cicilline was mayor, there were 24 homicides.
The data shows violent crime and property crimes have also declined during Taveras’ tenure as mayor. During Cicilline’s last year as mayor in 2010, there were 9,565 crimes of all types in Providence. Last year that number was down to 9,201.
All is fair in love, war and Rhode Island politics. But voters, particularly in the suburbs, would be wise to look at the facts before jumping to a conclusion based on an inflammatory campaign flyer. Providence is an urban center that faces many of the same challenges as cities of similar size around the country. Yet our capital is safer than many others and crime has actually dropped under Taveras.