RELEASE: New CAP Report Identifies 3 Ways Federal Government Can Effectively and Appropriately Support Local Public Safety Efforts

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report that tackles the faulty tough-on-crime approach of the Trump administration and identifies three ways the federal government can effectively and appropriately support local public safety efforts.

According to the report, the current administration’s strategy, which relies almost exclusively on dramatically increasing arrest and incarceration rates, has been shown to have little long-term effect on crime. It also is based on misleading interpretations of crime statistics while simultaneously ignoring the federal government’s appropriate role in public safety.

“Recent comments by Attorney General Jeff Sessions dangerously perpetuate the false description of American cities as sites of ‘carnage,’” said Ed Chung, CAP vice president for Criminal Justice Reform. “Pushing an enforcement-only approach across the country is like performing surgery on everyone who visits the doctor’s office for any reason. Targeted enforcement is certainly necessary, but it should not be the tool of first resort, especially when other public safety approaches are more appropriate, less invasive, and have been proven to produce better long-term outcomes.”

The report calls for the federal government to emphasize proven comprehensive and preventative approaches, even if they do not conform to a law and order ideology. These include increases in funding for evidence-based programs that emphasize a public health strategy to preventing crime and working to improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve through accountability. The report also stresses the importance of regulating the gun industry to prevent illegal firearms from flooding vulnerable communities.

“While this administration has attempted to use high rates of shootings and homicides in some U.S. cities to support its draconian law and order agenda, it has failed to acknowledge that easy access to firearms that are often illegally trafficked into vulnerable communities is a key driver of these crimes,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of Guns and Crime Policy at CAP. “Nearly every gun that ends up being illegally trafficked and used in crime started out as part of inventory of a licensed gun dealer, making robust regulation of the gun industry a crucial aspect of crime prevention. If this administration wants to get serious about reducing gun crime, it needs to provide the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with the resources and support required to provide effective regulatory oversight of gun dealers to ensure they are maintaining proper control over their dangerous inventory.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is the largest public safety funder and has the ability to move the field toward comprehensive evidence-based strategies instead of enforcement-only approaches. CAP’s analysis of the Trump budget, however, shows that the administration proposes to cut prevention, mentoring, and other comprehensive public safety programs by $200 million while simultaneously increasing enforcement-only efforts by $200 million. This includes a $31 million reduction to youth mentoring grants and a $54 million cut to research for comprehensive school safety programs.
  • Because of a lack of resources, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is able to inspect only a small fraction of licensed gun dealers in the country, according to the CAP report, leaving tens of thousands of dealers uninspected every year. The Trump administration, however, does not include any funding for the more than 100 regulatory positions needed to effectively inspect gun dealers to ensure that they are following all federal laws and regulations, nor has it made any effort to eliminate the restrictive appropriations riders that limit the agency’s ability to effectively fulfill its mission.
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) is a backstop to police accountability where local efforts have failed, yet Attorney General Sessions says DOJ should not be in the business of helping reform local law enforcement agencies. CAP’s report shows just much federal investigations and oversight is necessary. In Chicago, local civilian oversight and internal police department reviews sustained less than 2 percent of misconduct complaints against police, the city has paid more than $210 million to settle related lawsuits over the same period of time. That amount could have been used to pay for Chicago’s mentoring and summer jobs programs for over six years.

Read the report, ‘The Right Way To ‘Send In The Feds'” here.

For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202-741-6258.

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