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Can Washington Do Much About Local Violent Crime?

Justice Department leaders are concerned about a postpandemic rise in violent crime and a growing sense that lawlessness is overtaking daily life in many big cities. Republicans have highlighted the issue, along with inflation, before the 2022 midterm elections, and Democrats like New York City Mayor Eric Adams are also embracing a law-and-order approach as constituents demand action. Last year, at least 233 people were killed and 618 others were injured in about 500 shootings over the Fourth of July weekend, says the Gun Violence Archive. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is deploying additional patrols on the city’s West and South Sides. Milwaukee police officials used acoustic technology pinpointing gunshots to identify six areas to concentrate on over the holiday weekend. The police in Philadelphia — site of a recent 70-bullet shootout likened to a scene from the Wild West — are working on similar plans, reports the New York Times.


The federal government plays a supporting role fighting street crime. The Justice Department has created five “strike forces” that work with local police to disrupt firearms trafficking; a Drug Enforcement Administration initiative to combat drug-related violent crime and deal with overdose deaths in 34 cities; a $139 million initiative to hire 1,000 officers at understaffed local departments; and a rule that bans the production and sale of homemade “ghost guns,” which are fueling gun violence on the West Coast. In December, Congress provided $1.6 billion in additional funding for departments and community groups to address violent crime and community justice. There has been an uptick in prosecutions. DOJ has brought a series of major gun cases, including an indictment against an illegal weapons dealer in Texas who sold 75 guns that were connected to homicides, drug deals and other crimes. Cherie Ryans, 72, a retired Philadelphia schoolteacher whose 18-year-old son was killed in 1990, mentioned a meeting in her city with Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco, saying they "might be very good, but we are in an environment where it doesn’t matter what experience they have, or what they plan to have,."