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Making Our Communities Safer

"Crime in America has dropped for the past seven years -- the longest decline on record, thanks to a national consensus we helped to forge on community police, sensible gun safety laws, and effective prevention. But nobody believes America is safe enough. So let's set a higher goal: let's make America the safest big country in the world."

-- President Bill Clinton

State of the Union Address, January 27, 2000

Bringing Crime Rates Down

Lowest Crime Rates in a Generation. When President Clinton and Vice President Gore took office in 1993, the violent crime rate in America had more than quadrupled during the previous three decades. Since then, America has experienced the longest continuous drop in crime on record. The overall crime rate is the lowest in 25 years, and in 1999 crime fell for the eighth consecutive year nationwide. Violent crime rate fell 7 percent in 1999 and 27 percent since 1993. Since 1993, the murder rate is down more than 25 percent to its lowest point since 1967, and gun violence has declined by more than 35 percent. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998 National Crime Victimization Survey; Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports for the United States 1998, 1999; FY 2001 Budget, p. 107]

Juvenile Arrests Down. In 1998, the nation saw an 8 percent drop in the juvenile violent crime arrests. The number of juvenile gun homicide offenders has dropped by 57 percent since 1993. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports for the United States 1998, 1999]

Decline in Juvenile Homicides Due Almost Entirely to Decline in Homicides Committed With Guns. Guns are the key variable in the recent rise and fall of juvenile homicide. The rise in murders of juveniles and by juveniles from the mid-1980's to their peak in 1993 was almost entirely firearms-related -- as was their subsequent decline since 1993. [Justice Department Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Kids and Guns, 3/00]

School Violence Rates Drop. Although serious problems still exist, school crime has decreased by more than one-third during the Clinton-Gore Administration. In 1993, there were 155 school-related crimes per 1000 students. The rate dropped to 102 per 1000 in 1997. The number of students carrying a weapon to school and students getting into fights in school has also dropped significantly since 1993. [U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1999 Annual Report on School Safety; FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1999]

Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Criminals

More Than Half a Million Felons, Fugitives and Domestic Abusers Denied Guns. Since taking effect in 1994, the Brady Law has helped to prevent a total of more than 536,000 felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, and other prohibited purchasers from buying guns. In November 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) took effect under the Brady Law, allowing access to a fuller set of records that law enforcement officials can use to conduct checks of all prospective gun purchases -- not just for handguns. As of March 2000, NICS has conducted over 10 million background checks on gun purchasers, and stopped an estimated 179,000 illegal gun sales. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999, 6/00]

Taking Deadly Assault Weapons Off America's Streets. In 1994, President Clinton and Vice President Gore successfully fought for passage of the assault weapons ban, which prohibits the manufacture and importation of 19 of the deadliest assault weapons and large capacity ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. To protect the rights of law-abiding citizens, more than 650 types of hunting and sporting weapons are specifically exempted by the ban. [Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, PL 103-22]

Banning the Importation of Modified Deadly Weapons. In 1998, President Clinton announced a general ban on the importation of more than 50 non-recreational, modified assault weapons. The Treasury Department concluded that modified semiautomatic assault rifles that accept large capacity military magazines "or LCMM rifles" are not "particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes" and are generally not importable. The more than 50 models of firearms affected by the decision are modified versions of military assault weapons that were banned by the Bush Administration in 1989 or by the assault weapons ban of 1994. [Treasury Department Press Release, 4/6/98; Presidential Memorandum, 11/14/97]

Cracking Down on the Most Serious Gun Criminals. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have established a tough records of enforcement of our nation's gun laws by helping law enforcement take serious gun criminals out of our communities and put them where they belong: behind bars. The number of federal firearms cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorneys increased 16%, from 4,754 in 1992 to 5,500 in 1999. And, by providing federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors with the tools they need to crack down on gun criminals, overall gun prosecutions have increased 22 percent. In addition, the average sentence for federal gun offenders has increased by nearly two years, and federal law enforcement is successfully targeting the most serious gun offenders. Between 1992 and 1998, the number of of federal gun defendants sentenced to prison for three years or more went up 20 percent, and the number sentenced to five years or more went up 12 percent. [Justice Department Press Release, 1/18/00]

Largest Gun Enforcement Initiative in History. This year, President Clinton has proposed the largest gun enforcement initiative ever. The initiative would provide a record $280 million to add 500 new federal ATF agents and inspectors to target violent gun criminals and illegal gun traffickers that supply guns to criminals and juveniles, and fund over 1,000 new federal, state, and local gun prosecutors to take dangerous gun offenders off the streets. This initiative would also expand the ATF's crime gun tracing program by providing tracing equipment and training to 250 additional law enforcement agencies and by creating the first nationally integrated ballistics testing system. The new ballistics testing system will help law enforcement use the unique "fingerprints" of bullets or shell casings left at the scene of a crime to identify gun criminals -- even in the absence of a firearm. [Justice Department Press Release, 1/18/00]

Strengthening Penalties that Apply to Gun-Carrying Criminals and Drug Traffickers. In November 1998, the President signed a law to clarify and strengthen the federal penalties that apply to violent criminals and drug felons who commit crimes while carrying a gun. This new law makes it clear that violent criminals and drug felons who possess a firearm during the commission of a federal crime are subject to an additional -- and mandatory -- sentence of five years. The law provides that in addition to the penalties that apply for underlying violent or drug crimes -- criminals receive a mandatory minimum sentence of at least seven years for brandishing a firearm, and of at least 10 years if the firearm is discharged. [White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 11/13/98]

Launched the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative. In 1996, President Clinton launched the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII) in 17 cities to help trace crime guns to their source, as well as identify and arrest violent gun criminals and the adults who illegally supply firearms to youth. Since then, the President has expanded the YCGII initiative to 37 cities. ATF agents now conduct more than 200,000 crime gun traces for local law enforcement every year -- nearly four times the number of crime guns traced in 1993. Since 1996, ATF has initiated over 640 gun trafficking investigations related to youth in YCGII cities that involved over 27,000 crime guns. The President's FY 2001 budget proposes to increase YCGII to 50 cities with more ATF agents and additional resources to help more cities to trace crime guns. [White House Fact Sheet, 4/27/99; FY 2001 Budget, p. 110; ATF, Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative 27 Communities, 2/99; ATF, Commerce In Firearms in the United States, 2/00.]

Working to Pass Common-Sense Gun Laws. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have repeatedly called on Congress to build on the success of the Brady Law by quickly passing a set of common sense gun safety measures designed to keep guns out of the wrong hands and save lives. The Administration has proposed legislation, that passed in the Senate last year with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Gore, that would require background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows; require child safety locks for every handgun sold; bar the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips; and ban the most violent juvenile offenders from owning guns for life.

Historic Agreement with Smith and Wesson. On March 17, 2000, President Clinton announced an unprecedented partnership between the government and Smith and Wesson -- the largest handgun manufacturer in the nation -- to bring about meaningful reforms in the way the industry does business. The agreement represents the first time a major gun manufacturer has committed to fundamentally change the way guns are designed, distributed and marketed. Key provisions of the agreement include new design standards to make guns safer and prevent accidental shootings and gun deaths, such as locking devices and smart guns; and new sales and distribution controls to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and help law enforcement crack down on illegal gun traffickers, such as cutting off dealers who sell disproportionate numbers of guns that turn up in crimes. [White House Fact Sheet, 3/17/00]

Making Schools and Neighborhoods Safer

Putting 100,000 More Police on the Streets. In 1999, ahead of schedule and under budget, the Clinton-Gore Administration met its commitment to fund an additional 100,000 police officers for our communities. As a part of the COPS Program, the President announced a distressed neighborhood grant program to increase community policing in high-crime and underserved neighborhoods. To help keep crime at record lows, in fall 1999, the President won funding for the first installment toward his goal to hire up to 50,000 more officers by 2005. This year, the Clinton-Gore budget includes over $1 billion to continue the successful COPS initiative to hire more officers, hire new community prosecutors, give police the tools and technology they need to fight crime, and to fund community-wide crime fighting efforts. [Justice Department, COPS Program, 5/12/99; National Economic Council, 11/18/99; FY 2001 Budget, p. 109]

More Police Officers in Schools. President Clinton and Vice President Gore's community policing grants have been used to fund over 2,600 police officers to work in schools to help improve school safety. These officers are strengthening partnerships between local law enforcement and schools, and help them to focus on school crime, drug use and discipline problems.

Giving Police the Tools They Need to Fight Crime. As part of his COPS initiative, President Clinton won $230 million in FY 2000 to provide law enforcement with the latest crime-fighting and crime-solving technology. This funding will help make crime mapping technology -- which enables police agencies to track crime hot spots and target their resources to where they are most needed -- more widely available, to improve compatibility among law enforcement communications systems, and aid development and expansion of innovative tools to help law enforcement fight crime.

Improving Officer Safety. In June 1998, President Clinton signed the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act to provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to purchase bulletproof vests for their officers. In its first year, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act helped state and local law enforcement purchase 92,500 bulletproof vests. The Clinton-Gore Administration in 2000 announced its support to double funding for the successful program and extend it for three more years. [White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 6/16/98]

Fighting Hate Crimes. The President enacted the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act in 1994. He held the historic White House Conference on Hate Crimes, where he called for passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act -- bipartisan legislation which would strengthen hate crimes laws and make it clear that America will not tolerate acts of violence based on race, color, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability. In April 2000, President Clinton held a strategy session on hate crimes at the White House where he met with state, local, and federal law enforcement officials to emphasize the need for federal hate crimes legislation and to highlight successful partnerships between various law enforcement offices in prosecuting hate crimes. The President also released two new resources to fight hate crimes -- a local prosecutor's guide to preventing and responding to hate crimes, and a "promising practices" report that describes successful anti-hate partnerships. The President's FY 2001 budget includes $20 million to promote police integrity and for hate crimes training for federal, state, and local law enforcement. [White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 11/10/97, 4/25/00]

Working to End Racial Profiling. To help determine where and when racial profiling occurs, President Clinton directed the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Agriculture to collect data on the race, ethnicity, and gender of individuals subject to certain stops by federal law enforcement. The President also supports legislation sponsored by Congressman John Conyers to help state and local police forces to collect the same data. The President has also supported increased resources for police integrity and ethics training and to improve the diversity of local police forces.

New Tools in the Fight Against Domestic Violence. President Clinton championed and signed into law the Violence Against Women Act, bolstering local law enforcement, prosecution, and victims' services to better address these crimes. The President has more than quadrupled funding to domestic violence shelters and signed the Interstate Stalking Punishment and Prevention Act, making it a Federal crime to cross state lines intending to injure or harass another person. The Clinton-Gore Administration has also established a nationwide 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline, which provides immediate crisis intervention, counseling and referrals for those in need.

Protecting Children from Sex Offenders. President Clinton signed Megan's Law and the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, requiring states to set up sex offender registration systems and require community notification when sex offenders are released from prison. [White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 5/17/96]

Supervising Released Offenders. Two-thirds of all prisoners are re-arrested for new offenses within three years of release. To combat this problem, President Clinton's FY2001 budget calls for greater supervision of the 500,000 inmates who will leave prison this year and reenter communities in order to address community safety concerns, lower recidivism rates and promote responsible parenting. This initiative would include $60 million to create "reentry partnerships" and "reentry courts", complemented by $75 million for Responsible Reintegration for Young Offenders grants from the Department of Labor and $10 million for substance abuse and mental health services through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Breaking the Cycle of Drug Crime and Recidivism. To reduce drug use and repeat drug offenses, President Clinton and Vice President Gore fought for and signed legislation enacting the Zero Tolerance Drug Supervision Initiative to require states to develop comprehensive plans to drug test prisoners and parolees. In addition, the Administration has increased the number of federal inmates receiving residential substance abuse treatment from 1,135 in 1992 to 10,816 in 1999. The 1994 Crime Act has helped to expand the number of drug courts – which have been shown to reduce future drug use and recidivism – from a dozen in 1994 to more than 416 in October 1999. An additional 279 drug courts are in the planning stages. [ONDCP, FY 2001 Budget Summary; ONDCP, 2000 Annual Report, p. 62; FBOP Report to Congress, 1/99]

Keeping Guns Out of Our Nation's Schools. In October 1994, President Clinton signed into law the Gun-Free Schools Act, and issued a Presidential Directive to enforce "zero tolerance" for guns in schools. Nearly 10,000 students were expelled from public schools for bringing a firearm to school in the 1996-98 school years under zero tolerance policies. [U.S. Dept. of Education, Report on State Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act, 1997-98]

Coordinating the Federal Government's Response to Youth Violence. In 1999, President Clinton created the White House Council on Youth Violence to coordinate youth violence research and programs throughout the federal government, and to make information derived from the federal government's efforts more accessible to the public. Members of the Council include the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor, as well as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Engaging the Private Sector in Youth Violence Prevention: National Campaign Against Youth Violence. In August 1999, President Clinton announced the formation of an independent, national campaign to engage the private sector in addressing the problem of youth violence. The Campaign has developed anti-violence activities including a major media campaign, concerts, town hall meetings, and in-school and after-school programs. The Campaign also highlights effective youth violence initiatives in cities across the country.

Preventing Violence with the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative. Evidence shows that a comprehensive, integrated community-wide approach is an effective way to address the problems of school violence and alcohol and other drug abuse and promote healthy childhood. In 1998, President Clinton unveiled the Administration's Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative (SS/HS), an unprecedented joint effort involving the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services to help communities design and implement a comprehensive approach, including educational, mental health, social service, and law enforcement services for to help combat youth violence. SS/HS has provided $146 million to 77 local education authorities who have established formal partnerships with local mental health and law enforcement agencies. This year, the President has called for a $100 million expansion of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative.

Developed Comprehensive Anti-Drug Strategy Including a $195 Million National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. The President appointed Barry McCaffrey, a four-star general, to lead the Clinton-Gore Administration's anti-drug strategy as the nation's Drug Czar. In 1997, President Clinton and Director McCaffrey launched the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the largest targeted effort ever to teach youth about the dangers of drugs. The Campaign uses the full power of the modern media to encourage young people to reject drug use, and helps parents, teachers and other responsible adults talk to kids about drugs and get more involved in the lives of young people. Illicit drug use among young people age 12-17 declined from 1997 to 1998, and the average age of first-time use went up. Overall drug use is down since its peak in the 1970's, drug-related murders have fallen by 48 percent since 1992, and youth drug use is leveling off or declining. [Department of Health and Human Services Press Release 12/17/99; White House at Work, 2/8/99]



August 2000

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