President Clinton, describing the fight against U.S. juvenile crime as “our top law enforcement priority,” unveiled a series of proposals Wednesday to combat gangs and youth violence, including federal support for local prosecutors, efforts against truancy and aid to help 1,000 schools stay open longer.
Overall, the measures would cost half a billion dollars over the next two years. The expense was included in the administration’s recent spending plan and does not alter forecasts about balancing the budget, the White House said.
“It is the critical next step in our fight to have a safe Americana and to give our children a safe childhood,” Clinton told an audience at the University of Massachusetts Boston campus.
Clinton’s “anti-gang and youth violence strategy” is a mix of new proposals and some previously announced initiatives, including:
$200 million to pay for local prosecutors, particularly of violent gang members.
$75 million aimed at keeping “at risk” children out of trouble through such efforts as fighting truancy and supporting curfews.
$60 million for 1,000 new programs across the country to help schools bear the expense of staying open later in the day, on weekends and during the summer.
$50 million for grants to improve the juvenile justice system, to ensure that crimes of violence are reviewed in a timely manner and to consider when youthful defendants should be referred to adult courts.
Some juvenile crime experts said that the president’s initiatives reflected an understanding that communities should subject children to rules and penalties for not obeying them early - rather than waiting for more serious offenses that could land them in jail.