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ABQ crime is on D.C.’s radar screen

Attorney General William Barr’s visit to Albuquerque last month highlighted this Justice Department’s ceaseless commitment to reducing violent crime.

Barr came to New Mexico to celebrate the successful conclusion of a coordinated federal-state-local law enforcement operation that took more than 300 wanted fugitives – including 10 alleged killers – off of New Mexico’s streets. The successful operation is merely one visible reminder of this administration’s serious commitment to keeping the American people safe.

Three years ago, while accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump promised to “make America safe again,” devoting an entire day of the Republican National Convention to the theme. The left went apoplectic, calling the emphasis on law and order “dark,” “dystopian” and “a pageant of fear.”

Those objections were misguided. There’s a reason President Trump won the presidency on that message. As he explained in his acceptance speech, the situation became dire in the final two years of the Obama administration. In 2015 alone, homicides increased 17% in America’s 50 largest cities, including a 60% increase in Baltimore and a 50% spike in Washington, D.C. In Chicago alone, there had been more than 2,000 shooting victims by the midway point in 2016, with no end to the carnage in sight.

At the same time, police were under sustained assault, enduring a 50% jump in the number of officers killed in the line of duty over the preceding year.

Upon taking office, President Trump directed his Justice Department to “reduce crime and restore public safety to communities across the nation,” and outlined a plan to do it.

Almost immediately, (former) Attorney General Jeff Sessions began implementing that plan, which called for repairing federal relations with local law enforcement, forging new federal-local partnerships, and reforming prosecutorial guidelines for the U.S. Attorneys in every state in the country. It was a plan I was proud to follow during my time as acting U.S. Attorney General, and one that Attorney General Barr has also pursued rigorously.

The results have been tremendous nationwide. After 2015 and 2016’s spike in violent crime, many feared we were headed back to the carnage of the 1980s and early ’90s, which took years of painstaking effort to escape. But now, crime is dropping once again – both 2017 and 2018 saw significant reductions, even in most of the large American cities that were hit hardest by the Obama-era crime wave.

Unfortunately, Albuquerque has not been one of those cities, and Albuquerqueans continue to be victimized at an unacceptably high rate. The city’s violent crime rate is 3.7 times higher than the national average in 2018, murder is 2.5 times more frequent, and aggravated assault is four times more prevalent – and the numbers are still rising.

Part of the blame, as Barr pointed out, lies with weak New Mexico bail laws that allow too many criminals back on the streets under easy conditions.

Barr understands that no American community should have to suffer from such rampant crime, and he’s working toward a comprehensive solution that will restore law and order to cities such as Albuquerque. There is a federal component to the strategy, which Barr is pursuing through both high-profile actions such as the recent anti-fugitive operation and less noticeable efforts such as improving cooperation with state officials in order to try more of New Mexico’s worst offenders in the federal system. States and localities have their own role to play, of course, and progress has been encouraging in that respect, too. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, for example, has announced a new special state law enforcement unit specifically to track down dangerous fugitives.

Those efforts are paying off in the form of falling crime rates across the country, and Barr’s visit to Albuquerque underscored the administration’s commitment to ensuring that no American community misses out on this progress.

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