South Bend, Indiana mayor and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg defended his record and city's crime rate during a Fox News interview Sunday.
Host Chris Wallace noted that the city had drawn in hundreds of millions in private investment since Buttigieg took office in 2012. The two-term Democratic mayor deserved credit for job creation, urban revitalization, and improved infrastructure, he agreed. But, Wallace said, the news was not all good: "Critics point out the violent crime rate in South Bend went up to last year, and you had a continuing problem with homelessness, and—I checked it out yesterday—the unemployment rate of South Bend is higher than the unemployment rate for the state of Indiana as a whole."
"It is true that I have not personally resolved the problem of violence," Buttigieg joked. But, he said, homicides had dropped from 20 or more when he was a child to nine last year. That, he said, had to count as progress.
Wallace pushed back, saying the numbers over decades had improved, but had begun to creep back up since Buttigieg took office. "If you look at your term as mayor, it had gone up until last year," he said.
Buttigieg countered that the numbers had fluctuated under his administration, not gone up. "It was up and down from year to year, if you look at something like the homicide rate," he said.
South Bend last had 20 homicides in 2002, but only six and nine in the two years before Buttigieg won election, according to numbers from City-Data. Three of the next five years saw 17 or more homicides.
In a 2018 op-ed, Buttigieg was more straightforward. Writing in the South Bend Tribune, he acknowledged the city's rise in gun violence. "While our homicide rate remains well below its 1990s levels, this increase is cause for major concern," he said.
Speaking with Wallace, Buttigieg cast the city's situation in a positive light. "I am proud about everything that we have done as a community to come together, by the way, a low income community," he said. "Our per capita personal income just went over $20,000 a year. So yeah, we have challenges with economic growth. We have challenges with crime, we have challenges with homelessness, but the way our community has risen to meet those challenges is something I'm very proud of."
Buttigieg, a Navy veteran and two-term mayor of a 101,000-person city, previously ran unsuccessfully for Democratic National Committee chair in 2017. He hopes to secure the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.