Sessions warns of crime spike despite being ‘near historic lows’

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday warned against a spike in crimes across the U.S. and called for a crackdown on violent criminals while acknowledging that overall crime rates “remain near historic lows.”

“In the past four decades, our nation has won great victories against crime,” Sessions said during a speech in St. Louis. “Overall, crime rates remain near historic lows. Murder rates are half of what they were in 1980. We have driven the violent crime rate down to almost half of what it was at its peak.”

“But today, we see warning signs that this progress is now at risk,” he cautioned.

{mosads}The vow to tackle rising crime echoes the “law and order” campaign of President Trump, who has frequently highlighted violence in American cities. But Sessions acknowledged that crime rates are declining overall, a distinction not often made by the president.

In his inauguration speech, Trump railed against what he called “American carnage” defined by rampant domestic violence and drug- and gang-related crimes.

“Crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential,” he said. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

Trump incorrectly stated in February that the U.S. murder rate is at its highest point in 47 years. In fact, the murder rate reached its most recent peak in the early 1990s and steadily declined until 2014. The crime and murder rate has seen an upward tick over the last couple of years, but is nowhere near the levels seen in past decades. 

Sessions acknowledged that recent uptick, saying that the Justice Department was prepared to devote its resources to fighting the trend.

“These numbers should trouble all of us,” he said. “Behind all the data are real people whose safety and lives are at stake – like the good people whose stories I will hear later today. Each victim of this recent spike in violent crime is someone’s parent, child or friend. And every loss of a life to guns or drugs is a tragedy we must work to prevent.”

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