Good afternoon. Thank you very much for taking the time to join me today. I know we’ll all head downstairs after this but if I don’t get the chance to say hello—Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Thank you for helping us to inform the American people about the important work the 115,000 employees of the Department of Justice do to make this country safer and stronger.
As you have heard me say many times before, this President was elected as the law and order President. He was elected to make American safe again. And that mission has never been more important.
I have met with the mothers and fathers whose daughters have been brutally slaughtered by MS-13. I have talked to pastors who fear the dramatic rise in violent crime in their communities.
I have heard from our state and local law enforcement officers who go to work every day knowing they might not come home at night—like the two brave officers who responded to reports of gunshots and were shot in the chest yesterday in St. Louis.
We are so thankful they were wearing their vests and survived—but it is another reminder of how dangerous these jobs are and how grateful Americans should be every single day to our law enforcement and their families.
As Attorney General, I am deeply committed to combatting this surge in violent crime and supporting the work of our police officers. I have made it one of our top priorities both in word and deed.
Over the last two years, we have seen a deadly increase in violent crime. The overall violent crime rate is up by nearly seven percent. Robberies are up. Assaults are up. Rape is up by nearly 11 percent. And murder is up by more than 20 percent.
And by the way, I recently read one of our Department-funded studies that found that larger increases in drug-related homicides than in other types of homicide show that “expansions in illicit drug markets contributed to the overall homicide rise.” According to the study, nearly a quarter of this increase in homicides is the result of the increase in drug-related homicides.
There can be no question that drug trafficking is an inherently violent business.
But as we all know, these are not numbers—these are moms, dads, daughters, spouses, friends, and neighbors.
These are empty places at Christmas dinner tables and holes in the hearts and souls of victims’ families that will never heal.
I will not accept this as the status quo. We will not allow the progress made by our women and men in blue over the past two decades to simply slip through our fingers now.
We will not cede a community, a block, or a street corner to violent thugs who peddle poison or gangs who prey on our children.
Today, we take another important step forward in this fight.
As we know, 85 percent of law enforcement is state, local, and tribal. To be effective, we must utilize this force multiplier. It is these authorities that have the critical street level intelligence regarding the criminal element.
We are most effective when these experienced state and local investigators are paired with the resources and expertise of the 15 percent that are our federal law enforcement.
Put simply, this combined task force model is what truly works to reduce violent crime and that is precisely what we have established with our reinvigorated Project Safe Neighborhoods program.
This brings together Federal, State, Local, and Tribal collaboration, targeting the violent offenders who commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime.
Led by our 94 United States Attorney’s Offices, Project Safe Neighborhoods task forces are hitting the streets across America to apprehend and bring violent criminals to justice. I have asked Congress for additional PSN funding next year because I believe nothing will be more effective.
Under this program, I am asking a great deal of our United States Attorneys. I am both empowering them and holding them accountable for results. To put them in the best position to impact and reduce violent crime, it is my privilege to announce today that through a re-allocation of resources, we will be enlisting and deploying 40 additional violent crime prosecutors across the United States.
These prosecutors are being sent to hotbeds such as Central Islip New York, where we will have 2 new federal prosecutors focusing solely on violent crime and MS-13, and each of our southwest border districts will receive additional prosecutors to focus on the cartels and the violence the inflict in that region.
By working hard to find these additional positions, despite a budget reduction, we are allocating prosecutors to many more cities, including:
St. Louis, Missouri;
Las Vegas, Nevada;
and many others. These additional Assistant United States Attorneys can make an immediate impact. I know—I have seen it firsthand.
A committed AUSA can supervise multiple investigations, which in turn can apprehend and dismantle multiple criminal organizations simultaneously. That means fewer violent criminals on the streets and more concentration of resources on the bad actors who are left. That is how you reduce crime.
My expectations for these new AUSAs could not be higher, but I know this is an investment that will pay dividends for years to come and one that will make a readily discernable impact in these communities struggling with violence.
I have personally worked to re-purpose existing funds to support this critical mission. We have a saying around here that a new federal prosecutor is the coin of the realm. That means when we can eliminate wasteful spending, one of my first questions to my budget staff is whether this would allow us to deploy another AUSA to a violence-plagued district.
Through these efforts, we now have 40 slots, but this is just the beginning of our push to increase the tooth-to-tail ratio at this Department to drive down violent crime. We plan to push out an additional 260 AUSAs in the months to come.
I am also announcing today two new violent crime task forces that will focus on the areas most in need in North Carolina and Pennsylvania—two areas where violent crime far exceeds the national average.
In many of the counties surrounding Pittsburgh, they suffer from more violent crime per capita than Philadelphia.
So to the communities that are suffering, hear this: help is on the way. We are marshalling our resources and we will be relentless in our pursuit of violent criminals that are victimizing your neighborhood.
I am also announcing that I will be traveling to Milwaukee, Toledo, and Charlotte on Monday and Tuesday to personally observe the crime problem and to deliver the good news that additional help is on the way.
This will mark my 32nd U.S. Attorney’s office visit this year. At every one of those stops I have met some fabulous and dedicated AUSAs. I know I will see firsthand the impact that our prosecutors are having, and, more importantly, I will reaffirm this Department’s unequivocal support for the work done by law enforcement and prosecutors. Our federal team of AUSAs, FBI, DEA, ATF, US Marshals, and Bureau of Prisons are outstanding, and I am honored beyond words to lead them.
Finally, during this Christmas season and in the holiday spirit, I want to personally express my deep appreciation and profound thanks to all the women and men of law enforcement—state and local—and their families, for sacrificing so much and putting your lives on the line every day, holiday or not, so that the rest of us may enjoy the safety and security you provide. We love you and honor your work.
Know this, we have your back and you have our thanks.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.