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We are doubling down: Attorney General Garland announces new initiatives to combat violent crime

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(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Chicago Wednesday to highlight decreases in violent crime around the country, and announced a surge of investments and resources that he said will be aimed at “doubling down” on recent progress by law enforcement and their local partners.

“These declines are not just abstract statistics,” Garland said. “As you know so well, they represent people — people who are still here to see their children grow up, to work toward fulfilling their dreams, and to contribute to their communities.”

Garland’s comments come in an election year when violent crime is a major campaign issue, and one that Biden’s opponent, former President Donald Trump has attacked him on. While violent crime is dramatically falling, Trump and other Republicans have criticized the president over his handling of crime — often mentioning several high-profile crimes that are alleged to have been committed by immigrants who crossed the southern border illegally.

In remarks at a conference for federal grantees, Garland pointed to statistics showing that last year, the U.S. saw the largest one-year decline in homicides in half a century, including a 13% decrease last year in Chicago.

He credited the progress, in part, to the Biden administration’s implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which included new statutes that federal prosecutors have used to charge gun traffickers and individuals who straw purchase firearms. The law also provided $250 million in grants for the department to invest in community-based violent prevention initiatives over a five-year period.

In his speech Wednesday, Garland said $78 million of those funds would be made available to applicants beginning Wednesday.

“Those funds will go directly to organizations, like those represented in this room, that are making strides in driving down violent crime and building community trust across the country,” Garland said.

Garland’s remarks come amid a full-court press in the Biden administration to counter the narrative that violent crime remains rampant around the country.

President Biden similarly highlighted recent progress in combating crime in his State of the Union speech last month, looking to counter claims by former President Donald Trump who has sought to put the issue — along with immigration — at the forefront of the 2024 election.

“I want to be very clear about something: there is no acceptable level of violent crime,” Garland said. “Too many communities are still struggling and people are still scared. The hard-fought progress we saw last year can easily slip away. So we must remain focused and vigilant.”

Garland also announced in his remarks that the department would be deploying a surge of federal resources and prosecutors to St. Louis, Missouri, Jackson, Mississippi and Hartford, Connecticut, following similar targeted efforts in Houston, Memphis and Washington, D.C., which in recent years experienced record rises in violent crime.

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