Good morning, and thank you, Ron, for that introduction.
Ron was kind enough to ask me to join you today, and to speak a little about the partnership between the United States Department of Justice and the police departments around the world that you represent. I'm pleased to do that but, frankly, everything I am about to say can be summarized in just two words: "Thank you." Thank you for all of your hard work, and thank you for your dedication to your communities and to the people we all serve.
I am well aware that you and your officers are, to most people, the true face of the law. You are the ones people turn to for help when they face a crisis, a natural disaster, or a crime.
Those of us in federal law enforcement could not provide the American people with the safety and security they expect without the hard work of police chiefs across the country. That's why we have emphasized so strongly on working as partners with you and your counterparts, through task forces and joint operations, through training and – when possible – through financial support.
That hard work has yielded results, from which we all can, and should, take a measure of satisfaction. The most recent FBI crime numbers showed that the rate of crime in the U.S.—violent crime and property crime combined—was the lowest in more than thirty years. This good news came about due in large part to your effectiveness as police executives. Ten years ago we had the same ratio of sworn officers to population as we have today, but violent crime was 25% higher. In other words, police chiefs and police officers have done a lot to improve the quality of life for many Americans.
That increased effectiveness is good news for another reason—even though nationwide crime numbers are good, many communities still struggle with crime. Too many people still live in neighborhoods where fear of crime is part of daily life. We are committed to working together to ensure that they can one day enjoy freedom from this fear. We can now focus even more strongly on the communities that need our efforts most.
On the violent crime front, the Justice Department is doing all that it can, both here and abroad, to get to the root of the problem, and to help police do what is needed. We are proud of these efforts, and grateful for this organization’s participation and leadership.
Over the past eight years or so, the Department has created, or increased its use of, task forces and other programs that allow us to work with our law enforcement colleagues at all levels of government. They include the 152 Safe Streets Task Forces led by the FBI and operating nationwide to fight violent gangs.
They include the Fugitive Apprehension Task Forces coordinated by the U.S. Marshals Service, and successful projects like the Operation Falcon sweeps in which federal and local police officers worked together to apprehend more than 56,000 fugitives.
They include the work of the Human Trafficking Task Forces, which combat the terror of modern-day slavery and the threats posed by the smuggling of people across our borders.
They include the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Forces, which target major drug trafficking organizations. Through the cooperation of law enforcement at all levels, and internationally, we've taken down the leadership of the Cali Cartel, and the Arellano [ah ray AH no] Felix Cartel, and we recently struck a significant blow to the Gulf Cartel, with the arrest of more than 500 people and the seizure of, literally, tons of narcotics and millions of dollars.
Our efforts also include the 24 Innocence Lost Task Forces, launched with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Since the initiative began in 2003, these groups together have rescued more than 400 children, and their investigations have led to the conviction of more than 300 people on state and federal charges.
And they include the Violent Crime Impact Teams and Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, which are well known to this group and which have had a significant impact on many local communities.
All of these task forces, projects, initiatives, and operations are a part of the work we do together every day. They don’t just add to but they multiply our effectiveness, and none of it could be successful without you. So while I'm proud of what the Department has accomplished, how we've set our priorities, and the legacy we've established, I'm also grateful that we've had the friendship of police chiefs and departments around the country, and around the world.
Each of you is more than just a local official; you are a vital part of a unified law enforcement alliance. You are the ones we will turn to for guidance, support, and advice as we look for ways to keep building on our success.
Your help in creating that success has been tremendous. I’d like to highlight a couple of recent examples.
Last month, for example, we secured a sentence of 30 years in prison for a man who was part of a prostitution scheme that coerced girls as young as 14 years old to engage in commercial sex acts against their will.
He exploited young, uneducated girls from troubled backgrounds, and forced them to work as prostitutes for his financial benefit. He used a combination of deception, fraud, coercion, brutal rapes, threats of arrest, physical violence, and manipulation of addictive drugs to control his victims.
We were able to arrest him, along with several other defendants, and to build a strong case against them, thanks to an investigation that included a number of partners, including the Hartford and the Windsor Police Departments in Connecticut.
This case, and others like it, depend upon the hard work and collaboration of local police. Taking dangerous criminals off the streets and keeping them off the streets are essential if we are going to keep those crime numbers headed in the right direction.
And as our world gets smaller, the help of chiefs across the country and around the globe is, more than ever, an indispensable part of achieving that goal. A police chief in Boston or Atlanta can no longer assume that he faces no danger from a criminal in Canada.
In a case last month, for example, the Department secured a 40-year sentence against the head of an Asian drug trafficking organization that smuggled large amounts of illegal narcotics from Canada, where they had been manufactured, into the United States. The drugs were then distributed to customers from Boston to Atlanta. During one two-month period, the defendant sold tens of thousands of ecstasy pills to two Philadelphia-based drug dealers, and then coordinated a sophisticated scheme to launder the proceeds of those drug sales back to Canada.
That case got a huge boost when the Pennsylvania State Police discovered some pills during a traffic stop, and it included invaluable assistance from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police Department, and the Toronto Metropolitan Police Department.
This case is a great example of our increased efforts to work with our state, local and international partners, to figure out the best solutions to the law enforcement needs of each individual community.
We know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the crime problems we face. Rather than issue a series of mandates, we need to be flexible and allow local authorities to focus their efforts on the problems that most threaten their cities and counties, whether it is gangs, guns, or border issues. The task force approach I've described, and that we've used for the past eight years, is built on that understanding.
I want to make one final point before I conclude. In 1975, 33 years ago, I was a federal prosecutor in New York City, a time and a place when crime in America's cities was terribly high and getting worse. That fall of 1975, a predecessor of mine, Attorney General Edward Levi, spoke at this same conference, telling his audience: "The criminal law cannot be enforced entirely by the government. Obedience to it must be a part of the basic values of the citizenry."
Those words are as true today as they were when he spoke them then. The work you do to build up and support your communities, to sustain the values of the citizenry, is of far greater importance in the long run than any individual arrest or investigation. You stand as a symbol of the strength of our society—of the rule of law, and of compassion. More responsibility rests on your shoulders than on perhaps any other social institution to maintain what we often refer to as law and order, sometimes without stopping to think about how important both of those concepts – law and order – are to helping people go about their daily lives, and to maintain their support for those concepts.
The Department of Justice will continue to do all we can to help you bear that tremendous burden. Our communities, and our people, are better off because of the successes we've had together. All of you have been great partners to the Department and to federal law enforcement. I want to thank you once more for that partnership, for your hard work, and for your commitment.
Thank you very much.