Strategies for Reducing Rising Crime in Georgia, Nationally

Strategies for Reducing Rising Crime in Georgia, Nationally

(Editor’s note: The is the first of a two-part series of excerpts from a recent speech to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia at Jekyll Island.)

As a former Senator, I have to say, Georgia is well-represented in the Senate by my good friends Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.  You’ve also got three fabulous U.S. Attorneys: Bobby Christine, BJay Pak, and Charlie Peeler.  They’re doing a terrific job.

On behalf of President Donald Trump, I want to thank each of you for dedicating your lives to enforcing our laws and to keeping our communities safe.

I was a federal prosecutor for 14 years, and there is nothing I am more proud of than that.  As a prosecutor, you have the honor of representing your state and community in court.  I will never forget the feeling of going before a judge and saying, “the United States is ready.”  I will never get over that feeling of knowing that I represented the greatest country in the history of the world.  I’m sure you feel the same way. And you can make a difference.

And we’ve had a couple of rising crime years recently, before the start of this administration.

From the early 1990s until 2014, the crime rate steadily came down across the country.

But from 2014 to 2016, the trends reversed.  The violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent.  Robberies went up.  Assaults went up nearly 10 percent.  Rape went up by nearly 11 percent.  Murder shot up by more than 20 percent!

Here in the Peach State, violent crime went up nearly eight percent.  Aggravated assault went up nearly twelve percent.  Murder went up 17 percent.

These numbers are deeply troubling—and especially since they represent a sharp reversal of decades of progress.

We’ve got to get back on track. Today I want to talk about three steps we are taking.

First, we’ve restored common sense and the rule of law to the way we charge criminals.

Under the previous administration, in drug cases, the Department of Justice directed federal prosecutors not to include in charging documents the full amount of drugs being dealt if it would trigger a mandatory minimum sentence.  Prosecutors were required to leave out facts to achieve sentences lighter than required by law.

But last year, after study and discussion with criminal justice experts, I restored the charging policy of this Department to the traditional one that was in place when I was in trying cases.  We are trusting our prosecutors again.

Once again, we are letting our prosecutors honestly charge offenses as Congress intended.  They should apply the laws on the books to the facts of the case— and in the rare instance where that is unjust— use discretion.

Secondly, we’re also sending in reinforcements. The work is in the field.

We have a saying in my office that a new AUSA is “the coin of the realm.”  When we can eliminate wasteful spending, one of my first questions to my staff is if we can deploy more prosecutors to where they are needed.  I have personally worked to re-purpose existing funds to support this critical mission.

We are hiring more than 300 new federal prosecutors—AUSAs—across America.  That includes 12 in Georgia.  This is the largest surge in prosecutors in decades.

But I would say that the centerpiece of our strategy is a new and modernized Project Safe Neighborhoods—or PSN. Based around a set of core principles, PSN encouraged U.S. Attorneys’ offices to work with the communities they serve to develop customized crime reduction strategies.

This is a proven model.  One study showed that, in its first seven years, PSN reduced violent crime overall by 4.1 percent, with case studies showing reductions in certain areas of up to 42 percent.  That is a remarkable achievement.  There are Americans who are alive and well today because this program made a difference.

PSN is not a Washington-centered program.  In fact, it’s the opposite.

Every city and every district is facing a different set of circumstances and challenges.  For example, according to one study, half of all homicides in this country occur in just two percent of our counties.

Under PSN, I have directed our U.S. Attorneys to do two things.  First, to target and prioritize prosecutions on the most violent and most dangerous people in the most violent areas.

Second, I’ve ordered our U.S. Attorneys to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders—from prosecutors to police chiefs to mayors to community groups and victims’ advocates—to identify the needs specific to their communities as they develop a violent crime reduction plan.

Forging new relationships with local prosecutors like you and building on existing relationships will ensure that the most violent offenders are prosecuted in the most appropriate jurisdictions.

And this PSN approach is already bearing fruit, including right here in Georgia.