Justice Dept. unveils plan to fight violent crime in 12 cities
Posted June 20
The Justice Department unveiled a new initiative to combat violent crime Tuesday, announcing a deal to provide more federal resources to 12 select cities across the nation.
Notably absent from the list, however, was Chicago -- a city besieged by gun violence and previously the subject of harsh tweets from the President -- nor does it include others with creeping murder rates, such as Baltimore.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the new program will specifically focus on reducing gun crime, drug trafficking and gang violence.
"Turning back the recent troubling increase of violent crime in our country is a top priority of the Department of Justice and the Trump administration, as we work to fulfill the President's promise to make America safe again," Sessions said.
The newly created National Public Safety Partnership program will assist prosecutors and local law enforcement, including by providing "diagnostics teams" to assess the factors driving crime at the local level.
The initial 12 cities selected for new program include: Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Toledo, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Buffalo, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Jackson, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; Lansing, Michigan and Springfield, Illinois.
Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior explained that the cities were not chosen at random -- several were part of an earlier pilot program back in 2014 and the department also considered "both quantitative and qualitative measures, in consultation with United States Attorneys and DOJ law enforcement partners."
"To be considered for selection, a site must have levels of violence that far exceed the national average. PSP sites must also demonstrate a commitment to reducing violent crime and be ready to receive the intensive training and technical assistance available," Prior said.
But the rates of violent crime do differ among the cities chosen -- for example, Lansing is experiencing its lowest murder rate in a decade, whereas the murder rate in Memphis last year was the worst in two decades.
Sessions said that he anticipates additional cities will join the program later this year.
"We have a duty to make sure our country does not abandon all the progress we have made against crime over the past few decades. For many of our fellow citizens, this is literally a matter of life and death," Sessions said.
The announcement came as the department kicked off a two-day summit on policing strategies.
Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at Wednesday's session.