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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Biden offers $334 million to states, cities for crime crackdown

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks about retirement security and junk fees in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington on October 31, 2023.    (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
By Justin Sink Bloomberg News

The White House announced $334 million in new funding for state and local governments to hire additional law enforcement officers, as President Joe Biden looks to combat perceptions of growing violent crime in U.S. cities.

“These grants, which support the hiring of more than 1,700 new officers and make critical investments in school safety and crisis intervention efforts will help provide local law enforcement agencies with the resources they need to keep their communities safe, support officers, and build public trust,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday.

States and cities will receive $216 million for hiring new officers, $73 million for preventing violence in schools and $43 million to fund community policing, crisis-intervention programs and deescalation strategies, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told reporters.

Five new cities will join more than 50 jurisdictions participating in a Justice Department program to reduce crime and improve homicide clearance rates: Knoxville, Tennessee; Minneapolis; Raleigh, North Carolina; San Antonio, Texas; and Vallejo, California.

The Justice Department will host a violent crime reduction summit in Indianapolis from Dec. 11 to 13, bringing together 1,500 local and federal partners from across the country, the White House announced.

Polls suggest crime is a potential liability for Biden, even as the White House has sought to highlight his calls for providing more funding for law enforcement. GOP political advertisements routinely criticize the president and other Democratic lawmakers over their ties to advocates who call for defunding the police and instead boosting social services in response to a spate of high-profile killings of Black Americans by law enforcement.

Almost six in 10 Americans said they disapproved of Biden’s handling of the issue in a Harvard Center for American Political Studies/Harris Poll released last month.

Homicide and violent crime rates in major cities declined in the first half of 2023, according to statistics compiled by the Council on Criminal Justice, but remain elevated compared to before the coronavirus pandemic. In cities, including Washington and New York, local officials have begun offering residents in some high-crime areas Apple Inc. AirTags to track their vehicles amid a spate of carjackings.

In San Francisco and Chicago, worries about violent crime threaten efforts to keep businesses in the city and convince workers to return to downtown areas hard hit by the pandemic. San Francisco has also struggled with population loss and record commercial vacancy rates, leading business leaders to roll out a new ad campaign to repair the city’s image. Ken Griffin, the founder of hedge fund Citadel, cited crime in Chicago to explain his decision to move his company to Miami.

Cities have also grappled with a postpandemic surge of asylum seekers, with some local officials saying illegal immigration has stretched budgets and made it harder to deal with rising crime.

A coalition of Democratic mayors, including New York’s Eric Adams, Chicago’s Brandon Johnson, and Denver’s Michael Johnston are in Washington on Thursday, and will meet with White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, senior adviser Tom Perez and other officials, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The mayors had requested a meeting with Biden to discuss additional funding and speeding work authorization for migrants. Adams and others have criticized the White House’s handling of the migrant influx, imploring Biden to provide more resources to their cities.

The Biden administration is also seeking emergency funding to address the fentanyl crisis as part of a sweeping request that includes assistance for Ukraine, Israel, and allies in the Indo-Pacific.

The White House has asked for $1.2 billion for additional Department of Homeland Security officers and inspection systems, as well as $23 million for Justice Department testing and tracing programs. Biden is expected to raise the issue of fentanyl trafficking when he meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping later this month in San Francisco.