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Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks on Eradicating Violent Crime in America


Toledo, OH
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Justin for that introduction, and thank you for your many years of public service – in the Department of Justice, as an Assistant District Attorney, and in our military.  We’re all grateful for your long record of keeping our country safe, including just a few years ago when you helped to prosecute three men for conspiring to bomb a bridge outside Cleveland.

This marks my 32nd U.S. Attorney’s office visit this year.  On behalf of the President, I want to thank all of our Assistant U.S. Attorneys, the support staff here, and our state and local law enforcement officers.  Thank you for all you do, day in and day out. You all make the difference on the front lines.  

Thank you to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman, Toledo Police Chief George Kral, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, Marion Police Chief Bill Collins, Sandusky Sheriff Chris Hilton, U.S. Marshal Peter Elliot, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis, DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy Plancon, Jeffrey Fortunato of the FBI, Kyle Walton with the ATF, and so many other incredible law enforcement officers who are here.

To all of our law enforcement officers: the President and I stand with you.

On Friday the President spoke at the FBI National Academy Graduation ceremony.  He’s the first President to do so in 46 years.  He said, loud and clear, “America’s police have a true friend and loyal champion in the White House…The President of the United States has your back 100 percent.”

President Trump was elected as the law and order President.  He was elected to make America safe again and to have the backs of our men and women in blue. 

That mission has never been more important. Our Challenges are growing. 

Thanks to dedicated law enforcement officials like you, crime declined in America for 20 years.  It wasn’t easy.  It took important legal reforms, the development of new and innovative policing strategies, and decades of hard and dangerous work—but it saved lives and made a difference in countless communities. 

But over the last two years, the trends have reversed.  The violent crime rate is up by nearly seven percent.  Robberies are up.  Assaults are up nearly 10 percent.  Rape is up by nearly 11 percent.  Murder is up by more than 20 percent.

According to the new Department of Justice study, nearly a quarter of the increase in homicides is the result of the increase in drug-related homicides.  It’s why I keep saying that drug trafficking is an inherently violent business.

Meanwhile, more Americans are dying because of drugs than ever before.  Last year, an estimated 64,000 Americans died of drug overdose—one every nine minutes.  That’s nearly the population of Youngstown.

Millions of Americans are living with the daily struggle of addiction.  And for Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death.

These trends are not a blip or an anomaly.  I fear that, if we do not act now and smartly, this nation could see decades of progress reversed.

Sadly, this beautiful city has not been immune to these problems.  In Toledo, rape is up 36 percent in just two years.  Assault is up 15 percent.  And murders are up an astonishing 54 percent. We cannot accept these trends. And statewide, drug overdose deaths are up 60 percent in just two years.

As we all know, these are not just numbers—these are moms, dads, daughters, spouses, friends, and neighbors.  These are empty places at Christmas dinner this year and holes in the hearts and souls of victims’ families that will never close.

They include a teenage boy murdered on a North Toledo school playground earlier this year.

And the 20-year-old woman who was shot and killed during a massive street fight in central Toledo in September, when dozens of witnesses chose to record the fighting instead of calling the police.

And Thomas Lehman, the 23-year-old father who was beaten to death in front of his four-year-old daughter on Douglas Road.

But let me tell you: 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.  Plain and simple: we will not cede a community, a block, or a street corner to violent thugs or poison peddlers.

As soon as I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump sent me an executive order to reduce crime in America.

At the Department of Justice, we embrace that goal.  And you and I know from experience that it can be achieved.

Over these last 10 months, the Department has taken aggressive action to implement the President’s agenda.

This year alone, we have secured convictions against more than 1,000 gang members.  With our Central American partners we have charged 4,000 members of the vicious MS-13.  We have secured 200 human trafficking convictions, as well as four convictions for material support of terrorism.

Many of our successes have been achieved in this office.  Just last month, a man was sentenced to more than 27 years in prison for providing more than $20,000 to Anwar Al-Awlaki, as well as for soliciting an undercover FBI employee to kidnap and murder a U.S. district judge.

In June, three people from Lima were sentenced to a total of more than 40 years in prison for their roles in the sex trafficking of a 14-year-old girl.

And in April, two men were sentenced to prison for violating the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, after they brutally beat an African-American man they encountered randomly on the street.

I’m grateful for the hard work of those in this office who prosecuted these cases, especially dedicated Assistant U.S. Attorneys like Michael Freeman, Matthew Shepherd, Alissa Sterling, Daniel Hurley, and Robert Miller. You’ve done great work.

We are right to be proud of these victories.  

But we still have more work to do.

Toledo is one of a dozen places across America that I have selected for the National Public Safety Partnership.  I created PSP in June, and it brings together our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the DEA, FBI, ATF, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other law enforcement agencies.  In Toledo, the focus is on operations.  I know how actively involved the Toledo Police Department and Lucas County Sheriff’s Office are in PSP, and I want to thank them for that.

As we know, 85 percent of law enforcement is state, local, and tribal.  To be effective, we must utilize this force multiplier.  These are the authorities that have the critical street level intelligence regarding the criminal element.

We are most effective when these experienced state and local investigators are united 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.

PSN brings together Federal-State-Local-and Tribal collaboration, targeting the violent and serious offenders who commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime.  Led by our 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, Project Safe Neighborhoods task forces are hitting the streets across America to apprehend and bring violent criminals to justice.  I’ve asked Congress for additional funding for these task forces next year because I believe nothing will be more effective.

Under this program, I am asking a great deal of our U.S. Attorneys.  I am empowering them—but I’m holding them accountable for results.  

To put them in the best position to impact and reduce violent crime, through a re-allocation of resources, today I am announcing we will be enlisting and deploying 40 additional violent crime prosecutors across the United States in some of our hardest hit communities. And that includes two right here in this office.

These additional Assistant United States Attorneys can make an immediate impact.  I know: As a former AUSA myself, I have seen it firsthand.  

A committed AUSA can supervise multiple investigations, which in turn can dismantle multiple criminal organizations simultaneously.  And that means fewer violent criminals on the streets, which means it’s even easier to concentrate resources on the bad actors who are left.  That is how you reduce crime.

I know this is an investment that will pay dividends for years to come and one that will make a readily discernible impact in communities struggling with violence.

We are in tight budget times. Crime is rising.  I am determined to move resources to the most productive areas.

We have a saying around my office that a new federal prosecutor is “the coin of the realm.”  That means when we can eliminate less productive or wasteful spending, we ask whether this will allow us to deploy another AUSA to a violence-plagued district.

We are now adding 40 slots across the country, 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.

We are asking Congress to support these efforts, and invest in you, too.

And as we’ve sadly seen in New York City just in the last two months, these are national security issues as well. So I urge Congress to take these matters seriously, to support our law enforcement in the work that we’ve asked them to do, including our immigration officers, and not to shut down the government to obstruct the President’s agenda to reduce crime and have a lawful system of immigration.  We need to keep the government open—and we need to fund these priorities.

Violent crime has been increasing here in Toledo, and that is deeply troubling.  But thanks to our law enforcement officers, this is not hopeless.  We can make America safe again.

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, 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.

Violent Crime
Updated December 18, 2017