Assistant Attorney General Williams: Violent crime is declining -- DOJ is working to make America even safer

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Good news is not often reported, but the results of the recently-issued FBI Semiannual Uniform Crime Report are worth our attention.

After two years of disturbing increases, the preliminary FBI statistics for the first six months of 2018 demonstrate a sustained reduction in violent crime. The numbers show a 6.7 percent decline in murders, a 12.5 percent decline in robbery, and a 12.7 percent decline in burglary compared to the first six months of 2017.

This is a win for the American people and especially for those communities most impacted by violent crime.

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Such decreases were not predestined. From 2014 to 2016, nationwide violent crime increased by nearly 7 percent -- with a troubling 21 percent increase in the murder rate. 2015 alone saw an 11 percent increase in murders, the largest annual increase since 1968.

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Some of our large cities suffered the brunt of this violent crime spike with the murder rate rising in 22 of the 34 largest cities in 2016.

Following this significant increase in violent crime and murder, the Department of Justice under President Trump is committed to addressing the problem in a smart, systematic manner.

One of the government’s flagship programs is Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a nationwide strategy that brings together federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement -- and the communities they serve -- to address the most pressing violent crime issues and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is premised on three guiding principles. First, the best way to reduce violent crime is to target the most violent offenders. Research has shown that repeat violent offenders -- a small percentage of the overall criminal population -- are responsible for a grossly disproportionate number of violent crimes.

Second, local jurisdictions need to tailor enforcement to meet their specific needs. PSN is effective because it is not a Washington-centered, “one-size-fits-all” program. Every jurisdiction faces unique challenges, so federal authorities are working with local stakeholders to tailor methods and strategies to their respective communities. Using both pooled intelligence and the latest technology, law enforcement can target and interdict those who are the greatest threats to our communities.

Third, the approach must be comprehensive.

To have long-term, sustained reductions in the violent crime rate, we must dedicate resources to reach at-risk individuals and improve reentry outcomes for criminals who have completed their sentences.

The Department provides millions of dollars to support these programs nationwide. We are already seeing strong signs of progress.

To further decrease violent crime, the Department of Justice has focused on enforcing our gun laws.

Gun crime in America is driven by the illegal use and possession of firearms, including by felons and drug traffickers. In fact, according to a 2016 study of gun crimes in a major American city, 80 percent of firearms recovered by police were from people who were not the lawful owners. In fiscal year 2018, the Department of Justice prosecuted nearly 20 percent more firearms offenders than it did in 2017, and 30% more than it did in 2016.

But effective violent crime reduction is not simply about increasing prosecution rates -- it is about minimizing the number of crime victims by taking the most violent criminals off the streets.

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To do so, our PSN partners have leveraged effective and innovative crime-fighting strategies, such as Crime Gun Intelligence Centers and focused deterrence models. Each U.S. Attorney is working with his or her local partners and stakeholders to identify the worst offenders and bring them to justice.

Preventing violent crime by enforcing the law is not a partisan issue; it is an issue for all Americans. Nobody takes that mission more seriously than the men and women of the Department of Justice and our partners in law enforcement. Through programs such as PSN, the Department of Justice under President Trump will continue vigorously to prosecute society’s most violent offenders, working to make every American neighborhood safer.