Justice News

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein Delivers Remarks on Violent Crime and Announces New Grant to Support Las Vegas Shooting Victims at the Los Angeles Crimefighters Leadership Conference
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Thursday, February 7, 2019

Thank you, Deputy Chief Sean Malinowski, for that kind introduction.  I appreciate your service to America.

I am grateful to Chief Michel Moore and the Los Angeles Police Department for hosting this conference.  In a recent visit to Chicago, I learned about how Chief Malinowski helped to implement a violent crime strategy based on your success here in Los Angeles.

The LAPD recognizes its responsibility to respect the rule of law. One of the department’s core values is “reverence for the law.” The department’s mission statement says that “[w]e must always exercise integrity in the use of the power and authority that have been given to us by the people.  Our personal and professional behavior should be a model for all to follow.”

Last night, I met with LAPD command staff and representatives of our National Public Safety Partnership cities. The collaboration promoted by this conference is invaluable. By sharing strategies that work, we can continue to make our communities safer.

Some of the key Bureau of Justice Assistance team members responsible for the PSP program are here: Director Jon Adler, Rebecca Rose, Kristen Mahoney, and Cornelia Sigworth. And leaders of our Public Safety Partnership team, including John Buchanan, Gil Kerlikowske, and William Taylor.

When I became a prosecutor in 1990, I planned to stay for just a few years and join a private law firm.  But something happened that led me to take a different path.

I learned that working with law enforcement officers is an enormous privilege.

The mission of pursuing justice attracted me to law enforcement, but the people who carry out the mission are what I treasure most about my job.

Select any officer at random, and the odds are that you will find someone who is honorable, reliable, principled and trustworthy.

But policing is not for the faint of heart. Officers never know what danger the next call may bring.

You work day shifts and night shifts, on weekends and holidays, in blizzards and rainstorms, during parades and riots. Your office never closes. And you always need to be at your best, especially when other people are at their worst.

We were reminded of the danger yesterday when Milwaukee Chief Alfonso Morales needed to return home after Officer Matthew Ritter was shot and killed.

Last week, four Houston officers were shot in the line of duty while serving a search warrant. One of those officers had been shot in the line of duty on two prior occasions.  The Houston Police Department is represented here by Lieutenant Jesse Dang, and Lieutenant Reece Hardy.  I hope that you will convey to your colleagues our deep appreciation for their service and sacrifices.

It is an honor to join representatives of Public Safety Partnership cities, and to learn from one of the finest police departments in the world.

What strong, coordinated law enforcement has accomplished in this city is remarkable.

From 2005 to 2013, the murder rate in Los Angeles fell by nearly half. The reduction has been consistent and prolonged.

Those results do not happen by accident.  They demonstrate what we can achieve by combining smart tactics with dedicated support from the community and from political leaders.

For example, the LAPD’s smart policing initiative uses real-time intelligence to identify the criminals most likely to reoffend.  Based on the data, LAPD adjusts patrols throughout the day.  Not only does that help allocate resources effectively, it also builds credibility with the community.  Precision policing consistently reduces crime in targeted areas.

That has a real impact.  When people are safer, they are more confident about making investments, starting businesses, buying houses, and raising their children. Cities like Los Angeles and New York have started virtuous cycles. Safety contributes to prosperity, which leads to even more safety. That’s what we need to replicate across America.

There is a lot to learn — so I want to thank the LAPD for agreeing to share your experiences and insights.

I also want to thank the Chicago Police Department for hosting our PSP cities last month.  Deputy Chiefs Dwayne Betts and Tom Lemmer and all of the Chicago PD officers who are here deserve our appreciation.

In recent years, we learned about the dangers of diverting law enforcement officers from their core mission of preventing crime. 

From 2014 to 2016, nationwide violent crime increased by seven percent, and murders spiked by 21 percent.  There was an 11 percent increase in the murder rate in 2015 alone—the largest annual increase since 1968.

The upward trend was especially pronounced in big cities. In 2016, the murder rate rose in 22 of the 34 largest cities.

While police were trying to focus on the surge in violent crime, some political leaders were spending much of their time criticizing the police.

When President Trump took office, his first orders to the Department of Justice included reducing crime and supporting law enforcement officers. We are delivering on those commitments.

Some people mistakenly assume that crime is like the weather, largely subject to random forces beyond our control. But crime is not like the weather.  We can prevent it.  We can save lives.

The Department of Justice is guided by the President’s commitment to reduce crime, and we follow through on that commitment in many ways.

In Compton — not far from here — PSP helped local police develop a five-year plan to reduce gang violence.  Over the three-year trial period, the plan led to 1,124 felony arrests, 445 seized firearms, 80 pounds of seized explosives, 88 pounds of seized cocaine, 13 pounds of seized heroin, and 18 pounds of seized fentanyl—enough to kill thousands of people.

PSP is effective because it supports our state and local partners.  About 85 percent of police officers in America work for state and local agencies. PSP pairs federal resources with officers who bring the intelligence and experience that can lead to important federal cases.

Thank you also to Matt Dummermuth for all of the work you do as the head of our Office of Justice Programs and previously as a United States Attorney. 

Federal law enforcement agencies are sometimes portrayed as adversaries that compete with you to take credit for arrests. The truth is that inter-agency partnerships are essential to public safety.

Criminals do not care about jurisdictional boundaries, so our fight against them needs to overcome any boundaries.

In 1940, Attorney General Robert Jackson explained that the public “looks to the state and federal governments to work together in cooperation.”  He emphasized that law enforcement officers at all levels share a “grave responsibility.” And, he expressed his hope that federal, state, and local law enforcement entities would “establish[] … some machinery for the interchange of ideas and the general coordination of efforts.”

Jackson would be pleased to see how well today’s federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies exchange ideas, coordinate strategies, and share resources. 

Attorney General Ed Meese put it this way: “there is a role for the federal government to play in support of state and local law enforcement.  Intergovernmental cooperation and coordination can enhance crime control across the board.”  

Today, partnership is the rule and not the exception. The Department of Justice is fighting crime side by side with you.

We started with 12 PSP cities in 2017.  We sent diagnostic teams to find out where violent crime is rising, and why it is rising.

Last fall, we expanded PSP. We sent diagnostic teams to two more cities, and we sent operations teams to three others.

Representatives of our newest PSP cities are represented here today: Chief Jorge Colina from Miami; Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen of Tulsa; and Captain Justin Kobolt from Kansas City. 

In addition to PSP, we have taken many other steps to support state and local agencies. We enhanced asset-forfeiture sharing with state and local law enforcement.  We helped police departments hire more than 800 police officers across America.  We directed Justice Department components to help promote officer safety, officer morale, and respect for your work.

We also created a Department of Justice position solely to support state and local law enforcement.  The director of that office, Steve Cook, started his law enforcement career patrolling the streets as a police officer.  He now serves as the Department’s liaison to state and local law enforcement.  

We are enhancing our collaboration with our local partners in other ways as well.  To help agencies get the training and materials they need, the Department created a Violence Reduction Response Center. It serves as a “hot line” to provide a connection to resources.  That helps us deliver training material to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to supplement the existing training and technical assistance opportunities, which are collected in the National Public Safety Clearinghouse.

We have improved the capacity of forensic science providers, increased coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal agencies, and improved the reliability of forensic analysis. 

The cornerstone of our Department’s violent crime reduction strategy is a program based on cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement.  We call it Project Safe Neighborhoods, or PSN.

PSN is a proven crime-reduction strategy that encourages federal law enforcement officials to work with their state and local counterparts to take violent offenders off the streets.

The program was created in 2001, then it languished for a time as the Department’s priorities changed. Attorney General Sessions announced the reinvigoration of PSN in 2017.  Each of our 93 U.S. Attorneys developed a plan to ensure PSN is successfully implemented in their district.  That requires our U.S. Attorneys to partner with local police and prosecutors, mayors, and community leaders to ensure their plan reflects the local needs.

The Department of Justice is a law enforcement agency, but we don’t just prosecute criminals—we also help their victims.  Today I am announcing that our Office for Victims of Crime will award more than $8.3 million to the California Victim Compensation Board to support victims of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.  The shooting claimed the lives of 58 people—and more than half of them from California.  Thousands of California residents were present that day, and hundreds were seriously wounded.  Immediately after the shooting, we started working with officials from California and Nevada to meet the needs of victims, their families, first responders, and the community.  We already awarded a grant of more than $16 million to the state of Nevada to support these services.  Today’s funding will help meet the critical long-term needs of victims, compensating them for financial losses and medical expenses and providing services to victims and first responders.

All of these steps make a difference.  Our offices are more productive than ever, and crime is going down in America.

Last year, the Justice Department prosecuted more violent crime defendants than ever before. We exceeded the previous total by almost 15 percent.

We also charged more than 15,000 defendants with federal firearms offenses, 17 percent more than the previous record. Based on reliable data, our productivity increased more in 2018 than ever before.

But our goal is not to maximize the number of criminal defendants.  Our objective is to minimize the number of crime victims.

We are meeting that objective. Our Department’s work to reduce violent crime are bearing fruit.

In September, the FBI released final crime statistics for 2017.  They showed that the violent crime rate and the homicide rate both declined, after two years of significant increases.

Preliminary data for 2018 provides further reasons for optimism. 

Data from 59 large cities shows that in the first 9 months of 2018, the overall violent crime rate was down over 3% compared to the same time frame in 2017.  Murder is trending downwards as well.

The Brennan Center projects that the murder rate in America’s 30 largest cities declined by 7.6 percent in 2018, bringing the rate back down to the 2015 level.

And when you puruse gangs and violent criminals, you go after drug dealers too.  We know that violent crime and drug trafficking are linked.

It is no coincidence that our pursuit of violent gangs and cartels helped us begin to reduce drug overdose deaths at last.

From 2012 to 2017, drug overdose deaths per year increased by nearly 70 percent.

The increases continued until September 2017.  Then the total decreased by two percent from September 2017 through April 2018.

That preliminary data is encouraging.

The effects of reduced crime can especially be felt here in this city.

In Los Angeles, crime dropped in almost every major category in 2018.  Last year, LA had the second-lowest number of homicides in the past 50 years.  Homicides were down 8.2 percent, violent crime was down 4.5 percent and property crime was down 1.8 percent. 

Most of the credit is due to the 13,000 sworn and civilian personnel of the LAPD.  You increased patrols by more than 1 million hours in 2018. You worked hard to reach those results.

Other PSP cities have also experienced significant recent reductions in crime.

Both homicides and nonfatal shootings went down in Milwaukee in 2018.

New Orleans had fewer homicides last year than any year since the early 1970s.  A lot of the credit is due to Deputy Superintendent Paul Noel, who is here today.

There is much to be proud of, and as we look to the future of American law enforcement, there are good reasons for hope.

First, today we have new policing tools that did not exist a few years ago.  That includes crime gun intelligence centers like the one here in LA.

Crime gun centers combine intelligence from gunshot detection systems, ballistics, gun tracing, and good old fashioned police work, to develop real-time leads about the traffickers and trigger pullers who fuel violence in our communities.  

Our Department dedicates significant funding to support Crime Gun Intelligence Centers across the country, and we plan to provide more support in the coming years.  The Department also strengthened our crime data collection and dissemination efforts, made our own data more detailed and accessible, and continued to support the FBI’s transition from its Summary Reporting System for Uniform Crime Reports to a more comprehensive National Incident-Based Reporting System.  The improvements will provide a clearer picture of violent crime and help us develop appropriate responses.

There are also important advances in data-driven policing, the ability to analyze data and anticipate crime, as you do here in Los Angeles.  The Department of Justice funds many local initiatives to make better use of data and prevent crime.

Let me conclude by observing that this conference itself gives us good reason for hope.  The experience, insights, and best practices of some of America’s finest police departments can be replicated elsewhere. 

I hope that you will use your time here at this conference to learn from each other, to forge new relationships, and to strengthen the relationships that we already have.

Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, researchers, and community groups can reduce crime when we work together.  Thanks to PSP, we are working together with tools that we’ve never had before.  We can be more effective than ever.

It is a privilege to work with you and to help you to reduce violent crime.  Thank you for putting your lives on the line to protect and to serve your fellow citizens.

Over the coming years, I hope that you will support our Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative. Your local U.S. Attorney’s Office is eager to help. Here in Los Angeles, for example, U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna is committed to working with the LAPD to make Los Angeles even safer.

Let me conclude with this commitment. Our Department of Justice works for you.  We will help you reduce crime.  We will protect civil rights.  And we will defend the rule of law. 

I came here from Washington to make that commitment. I will return to Washington tonight to work with my colleagues to deliver on it.

Thank you very much.

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Updated February 7, 2019