Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new plan Tuesday in which 12 cities will receive more federal manpower to combat violence in their communities.
“Turning back the recent troubling increase of violence 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 in Bethesda, Md., at the beginning of the Justice Department’s two-day summit on crime reduction.
The first round of cities chosen for the new initiative, the National Public Safety Partnership, are Baton Rouge; Birmingham, Ala.; Buffalo; Cincinnati; Houston; Indianapolis; Jackson, Tenn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Lansing, Mich.; Memphis; Springfield, Ill.; and Toledo.
“Our nation’s violent-crime rate is rising,” Sessions said. “In many of our urban areas, this increase is staggering.”
Baltimore and Chicago, two large cities where violent crime is increasing, were notably not on the list.
Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said the department is anticipating that more cities will be added later in the year. He said the department is considering reallocating prosecutors to Chicago and has already sent more than 20 additional agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The 12 chosen cities will not receive more money from the Justice Department. But the department will send agency employees and experts to work with them to develop strategies and tactics to best fight violent crime, Sessions said.
Crime in the United States is near historic lows, but according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, preliminary figures indicate that there was an overall increase of 5.3 percent in the number of violent crimes nationally for the first six months of 2016, compared with the same period in 2015. Meanwhile, many major cities have seen increases in homicides. The Brennan Center, a New York-based law and policy institute, released a report last year that found that Chicago accounted for a large share in the increase in the nation’s homicide rate.
Sessions was joined by the heads of the FBI, ATF and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who praised law enforcement officials in the audience for the risks they take to protect the public.
“The attorney general and I understand that every time you pull a vehicle over, execute a search warrant or step out in your uniform, you are faced with a potentially fatal situation,” Rosenstein said. “It gives us the utmost respect for the work you do.”
Tuesday’s event was the first time the Justice Department’s top two officials have appeared publicly since their high-profile hearings on Capitol Hill last week, in which they faced tough questioning on the Russia investigation.
On Tuesday, Sessions and Rosenstein received standing ovations from state and local law enforcement officials from across the country who came for two days of workshops and said they were pleased with the new initiative.
“One thing the Department of Justice does very well is to identify what works in law enforcement and share those best practices with local law enforcement in especially hard-hit cities,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “Whether it is using the latest in gun tracking or DNA analysis, this is a positive step that will be welcomed by local law enforcement.”