U.S. Attorney General William Barr recently spoke at a press conference in Detroit where he announced a new federal program that will “surge an unparalleled amount of federal backing” to the most dangerous cities in America.
“Americans deserve to live in safety,” Barr said during a December 18 press conference. “And while nationwide violent crime rates are down, many cities continue to see levels of extraordinary violence.”
The new federal program is called Operation Relentless Pursuit and will simultaneously connect “all four major federal law-enforcement agencies to the places that most need attention,” Barr explained in an op-ed for The Detroit News.
“Operation Relentless Pursuit seeks to ensure that no American city is excluded from the peace and security felt by the majority of Americans, while also supporting those who serve and protect in these communities with the resources, training, and equipment they need to stay safe,” he said during the press conference.
He was joined by the heads of the FBI, ATF, DEA, and U.S. Marshals Service, and pledged to intensify federal law enforcement resources in Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, and Milwaukee—all cities experiencing crimes rates that are several times the national average.
According to a press release from Barr’s office, the operation will involve an increase in the number of federal law enforcement officers in the selected cities. The uptick in federal agents on the ground will be accompanied by a financial commitment of up to $71 million in federal grant funding, which can be used to hire new officers, pay overtime and benefits, finance federally deputized task force officers, and purchase new equipment and technology.
“Drug traffickers– including cartels and street gangs– will stop at nothing to turn a profit, often using violence and intimidation to expand their reach,” DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said during the presser. “This targeted surge of resources will further strengthen our ability to work with our federal, state, and local partners to pursue the worst offenders and make our communities safer.”
Barr said in his Detroit News op-ed that the “magnitude of this operation cannot be underestimated.”
“This initiative was designed to update and enhance the best crime-fighting techniques from the last thirty years — techniques that were largely abandoned by previous presidential administrations,” said Barr, who praised President Donald Trump for returning to “the common-sense policies that had effectively cut crime in the past.”
“We coordinated with our state and local partners to launch new initiatives modeled after our accomplishment, designed to swiftly take the most violent offenders off the streets,” wrote Barr. “These tried-and-true crime reduction strategies reversed the trend. The national violent-crime rate dropped in 2017, and then again in 2018. In many parts of the country, it looks like things are back on track.”
Detroit, however, continues to report the highest violent-crime rates per capita among major U.S. cities, said Barr.
“During the Trump administration, many Americans have already received relief from the threat of violent crime. Now, Operation Relentless Pursuit will strive to ensure that peace, safety, and rule of law are enjoyed as widely as possible,” Barr concluded his article. “Detroit can and will defeat violent crime. The federal government stands ready to follow the lead of local law enforcement on the ground and equip them with the best assets in its arsenal.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and other law enforcement leaders said during a recent forum that the state is turning from a tough on crime to “smart on crime” approach.
“The biggest way to deter criminal activity is by giving children a future. When we don’t properly fund public schools, or we make college incredibly expensive, we ensure people aren’t going to be able to earn an adequate income,” which increases their chances of committing a crime, Nessel said during the event.
In his op-ed, Barr criticized criminal justice “reforms” that offer “leniency to violent offenders.” He also decried the “explosion of anti-police rhetoric,” which has coincided with “a surge in assaults on police officers.”
“In 2016 alone, the number of officers shot and killed in the line of duty skyrocketed by 44 percent,” he said.
A Michigan Department of Corrections spokesperson told Michigan Advance that the agency was not aware of the new federal program announced by Barr.
“We certainly support efforts to reduce crime, but there are many ways to do that,” the department said in a statement. “At the MDOC, we view our role as working to create long-term public safety by helping to turn around the lives of those who are sent to us by the courts. We learn what their risks and needs are and then put them in programming and in educational opportunities that put them on a better path. Upon release, we ensure they have proper housing, community supports and employment opportunities so that they don’t see the benefit in returning to a life of crime.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “William Barr” by The Justice Department.