Sessions: Crime on decline due to Trump policies
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is embracing newly-released FBI statistics as evidence that America has turned the tide in its battle against violent crime — a shift he credits in large part to the policies of President Donald Trump.
The FBI numbers, covering the first six months of 2017, show overall violent crime declined by 0.8 percent, with rape and robbery each declining by more than 2% compared to the same period in 2016.
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However, murder increased by 1.5 percent during in the first half of 2016, according to the report released Tuesday.
A statement posted on the FBI’s website referred to the reduction in crime as "slight."
However, Sessions said in an op-ed piece published Tuesday in USA Today that the report is evidence that Trump is delivering on the vow he made in his jarring inaugural speech last year to put an end to what he termed "American carnage."
"It is a promise that he has kept," Sessions declared. "Ensuring every neighborhood in America is safe again will take time, but we are already starting to see results."
While the statistics show the murder rate still rising, particularly in big cities, the attorney general stressed that the increase in early 2017 was lower than in 2016, which saw a dramatic 8.6 increase.
"In the first six months of last year, the increase in the murder rate slowed and violent crime actually went down. Publicly available data for the rest of the year suggest further progress," Sessions said.
The attorney general attributed the declines, at least in part, to the administration’s decisions to bring more prosecutions for violent crime, to give prosecutors more discretion to file more serious charges and to encourage more "respect" for police."
Critics disputed that any of the administration’s policy changes are having an impact on crime rates.
"They’re correct that crime in 2017 is down…but there’s no evidence whatsoever that this is due to the administration’s policies," said Inimai Chettiar of the Brennan Center for Justice.
Chettiar said the administration exaggerated indications of a crime wave and now is exaggerating the impact of officials’ efforts.
"Policies implemented only a few months ago can’t bring down crime. Crime is a very complex issue," she said.
Chettiar also noted that some of the new data cast doubt on some of the administration’s claims, like the idea that the epidemic of opioid abuse is driving violence. In the rural areas where opioid addiction is most prevalent, murders declined in early 2017, she said.
Sessions and other top Justice Department officials routinely use their public appearances and statements to pay tribute to the president’s leadership. The op-ed on the crime numbers was no exception, with Sessions’ mentioning Trump by name four times and referring to him five other times.
Some Democrats have urged Sessions to limit his public references to Trump, arguing that the statements undermine the Justice Department’s independence. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California specifically complained about Sessions telling Justice Department staffers that they are now operating in the "Trump era."
Judging by the new op-ed, the attorney general has not heeded Feinstein’s advice.
"This first year of the Trump era shows once again that the difficult work we do alongside our state, local and tribal law enforcement partners makes a difference," Sessions wrote. "Crime rates are not like the tides — we can help change them. And under Trump’s strong leadership, we will."
January 23, 2018 at 07:30PM