Justice Dept. plans crackdown on violent crime in 7 cities

Attorney General William Barr adjusts his glasses while speaking to the National Association of Attorneys General, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced a crackdown Wednesday aimed at driving down violent crime in seven of the nation’s most violent cities.

Attorney General William Barr is announcing the initiative known as Operation Relentless Pursuit at a news conference in Detroit, Michigan, alongside the leaders of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service.

As part of the initiative, the Justice Department will intensify federal law enforcement resources in the seven cities — Detroit, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee — which have violent crime rates high above the national average.

The Justice Department will increase the number of federal law enforcement officers in each of the cities and add additional officers to federal task forces. The department is also committing up to $71 million in federal grant funds that can help fund the task forces, be used to hire new officers, pay overtime and purchase new equipment and technology.

The federal law enforcement agencies will work with local and state investigators to target violent criminals, members of drug cartels and gun traffickers by utilizing federal resources and intelligence. Agents will also utilize the ATF’s national database known as NIBIN, or the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which can help match images of bullet cases collected at crime scenes to link shootings.

Targeting violent crime has been a top priority for the Justice Department, Barr and President Donald Trump.

Barr, an ardent backer of law enforcement, was known for a tough-on-crime approach in his previous stint as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer in the early 1990s as the national violent crime rate peaked. Those efforts, he has said, helped seriously cut down the nation’s violent crime rate.

Since he assumed the role of attorney general in February, Barr has vowed to use the federal government’s resources to drive down violent crime in cities where the crime rate has been rising and has made prosecuting violent criminals and gun offenders a top priority for federal prosecutors.

Still, Barr has also embraced a bipartisan criminal justice reform measure known as the First Step Act, which gives judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders, eases mandatory minimum sentences and encourages inmates to participate in programs designed to reduce the risk of recidivism, with credits that can be used to gain an earlier release.

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