WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he is reviving a Bush era crime-fighting strategy that emphasizes aggressive prosecution of gun and gang crimes.
Similar efforts fizzled in recent years due to funding cuts and concerns that they focused too heavily on common street criminals as opposed to major players. But Justice Department officials insist they are drawing from lessons learned since Project Safe Neighborhoods was initially launched in 2001.
Part of the program's focus is on sending certain gun crimes to federal court, where they carry longer sentences in far-away prisons. The department will station 40 additional federal prosecutors in districts that are struggling with spikes in crime.
It's the latest move by the Trump administration as it enacts its tough-on-crime agenda and a cornerstone of Sessions' promised crackdown on violence. Sessions told the nation's federal prosecutors in a Thursday memo that they would be evaluated regularly based on their commitment to Project Safe Neighborhoods, which also emphasizes partnerships among local law enforcement and community groups.
"We cannot afford to be complacent in the face of violence that threatens too many of our communities," Sessions wrote in the memo, lamenting recently released federal data showing violent crime rose in 2016 for the second straight year. "We can never cede a single neighborhood, block or street corner to violent criminals."
The Justice Department has asked Congress for $70 million for the effort, but officials say it could be implemented without the money. The initiative will give local law enforcement faster access to technology that helps solve shootings and more quickly trace guns used in crimes. It also calls for U.S. attorneys to come up with a comprehensive plan for combatting violence in their districts that involves local police and prosecutors.