‘Our plan is working’: Biden highlights efforts to reduce crime in meeting with law enforcement leaders

Gun Rights

At a roundtable with local law enforcement officials and public safety leaders on Wednesday, President Joe Biden touted his administration’s efforts to combat crime, making the case that his administration’s “plan is working” and attempting to rebut criticism from Republicans.

“Last year, the United States had one of the lowest rates of all violent crime in more than 50 years,” Biden said to the room full of officials from cities including Philadelphia, Buffalo, N.Y., Miami, Detroit, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago and Milwaukee. “Murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery all dropped sharply, along with burglary, property, crime and theft.”

What You Need To Know

  • At a roundtable with local law enforcement officials and public safety leaders on Wednesday, President Joe Biden touted his administration’s efforts to combat crime, making the case that his administration’s “plan is working” and attempting to rebut criticism from Republicans
  • Those participating in Wednesday’s conversation include the police commissioner, chief or superintendent of Philadelphia, Buffalo, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Miami, Milwaukee, DeKalb County, Chicago and Detroit
  • In a fact sheet released on Wednesday, the White House noted homicides are expected to be down 12% in 2023 from the year prior

The White House specifically noted that the participants in Wednesday’s event were police chiefs hailing from cities who have seen “significant homicide declines.” 

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Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman told Spectrum News in an interview following the roundtable that Wednesday’s discussion was important in terms of “making sure that this is a conversation that we don’t put on the backburner.” 

“Public safety and crime reduction is a top priority for my administration, and for me, it has been for a long time back when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” the president said during his remarks. “Since day one, my administration has been working with law enforcement, mayors and community leaders to do what we know works to keep people communities safe.”

“Our plan is working, but we still have much more to do, as everyone at this table knows, and that’s why we’re here today,” Biden later added. “My administration is going to choose progress over policy, and communities across the country are safer as a result of that.”

In a fact sheet released on Wednesday, the White House noted homicides are expected to be down 12% in 2023 from the year prior. 

A report from the Council on Criminal Justice found data from 32 cities that provided statistics showed a 10% drop in homicides in 2023 compared to 2022. Other violent crimes, the study found, such as aggravated assaults and gun assaults, also decreased in cities that reported data. Motor vehicle thefts, however, continued to rise in 2023 and reported statistics on property crime were mixed, the study found. 

The FBI’s annual crime report released last year found violent crime in 2022 dropped, returning to about the same level as before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The homicide rate spiked in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, jumping about 30% from 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“During the pandemic, states and cities saw violent crime rising, and their budgets were strained as they faced deep cuts in law enforcement and public safety,” Biden said. “But we stepped up.”

The president noted that his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, signed into law in 2021, has allowed communities to invest more than $15 billion in public safety. The White House specifically noted investments stemming from the bill in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Chicago, which saw declines in murder rates. 

Norman noted participants in Wednesday’s roundtable discussed the American Rescue Plan and how it is helping “ensure that we have the funding and the resources to be able to deal with some of the issues that contribute to our public safety.” 

“We provided a $350 billion, $350 billion, that was available to deal with these issues,” the president said. “The fact is that we find we could use this money to keep law enforcement on the beat, communities safe from violence. We invested $15 billion, $15 billion to make their communities safer, and we added billions more in grants to help. The Justice Department invested in law enforcement and community violence intervention programs. Because of the American Rescue Plan, we have the largest federal investment in fighting crime and preventing violent crime at any time in our history. And that’s a big deal.”

Police Chief for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Johnny Jennings said one of the biggest challenges his area is currently facing is “juvenile crime.”

“We’re seeing a lot of – not just the numbers themselves of how many more juvenile crimes that we’re seeing, but the age of them, how they are decreasing in age,” Jennings said in an interview with Spectrum News on Wednesday. “When you see 12, 13 year olds who are carrying guns and shooting at each other and killing each other – it’s a depressing thought.” 

Asked about his message to the president, Jennings said it was “pretty clear.” 

“We just continue to need support on the federal level when it comes to local policing,” he told Spectrum News. “Without support on the federal level, we can’t do our jobs as effectively.” 

Jennings added he was “encouraged” by Wednesday’s conversation. 

Earlier this month, as the White House hosted local violence intervention leaders for a Community Violence Awareness Week, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre touted the administration’s investments in fighting crime. 

“Community violence intervention programs are a key piece of the President’s Safer America Plan and have been shown to reduce violence by as much as 50 percent,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. 

“These actions are reducing crime and saving lives nationwide, with homicides and gun violence rates on the decline in 2023,” she said. 

In Wednesday’s fact sheet, the White House noted the Biden administration is taking a “three-part approach” to the issue: “funding effective, accountable policing; investing in intervention and prevention strategies; and keeping especially dangerous guns off our streets and out of dangerous hands.”

“We know being in law enforcement is harder than ever, we expect you to be everything to everybody,” the president said. “That’s why we’ve invested in more crisis responders, who work alongside police officers … mental health and social workers respond to non-violent crimes as well. More investment in recruiting, retaining and training officers, more investments in violence prevention to get guns off the street. And on top of that, we’re hiring more U.S. attorneys, recruiting more U.S. Marshals and investing more in technology and training to clear the court backlog, solve murders and to deal with apprehending violent changes.”

Despite the declining numbers, polls show Americans have a different perception. A Gallup poll in Nov. 2023 found 77% of those surveyed believed there is more crime in the country compared to a year ago. 

When asked earlier this month about increases in homicides in Washington last year, Jean-Pierre said “all violent crime anywhere is completely unacceptable,” pointing out Republicans in Congress voted against the American Rescue Plan. 

In 2022, Biden laid out a $37 billion strategy, called the “Safer America Plan” policing and crime prevention efforts.

Last year, the Biden administration established the first Office of Gun Violence Prevention, designed to build on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act by speeding up its implementation and coordinating support for communities and individuals impacted by gun violence. 

Biden also called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a long-stalled reform bill aimed at fighting racial bias in policing and police misconduct, as well as to pass more gun safety legislation.

“I’ve taken more executive actions to stop the flow of illegal guns than any other administration in history,” he said. “And we beat the NRA when I signed the most significant gun safety law in nearly 30 years. We’re gonna finish the job. We’re gonna ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines next time around because it has to be done.”

“My administration is going to choose progress over politics, and communities across the country our are safer as a result of that policy,” Biden concluded. “There is no greater responsibility to ensure the safety of families, children, communities and our nation.”

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