Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the attorney general with the Mariah Carey memory, traveled to Milwaukee today to give a speech to law enforcement officers about violent crime in America. The speech painted a dystopian image of an America riddled with violent crime and promised a higher “tooth-to-tail ratio” in combating it.
Sessions’ remarks gave criminal-justice-reform advocates plenty of reasons to worry: The thrust of the Department of Justice’s efforts to curtail violent crime would focus on drug arrests and prosecution, including adding 40 new federal prosecutors, according to Fox 6 Milwaukee.
Sessions began by hyping up his boss, whose carnage-filled vision of America was mirrored in Sessions’ own speech.
“President Trump was elected as the law-and-order president. He was elected to make America safe again and to have the backs of our men and women in blue,” Sessions said, according to Fox 6 Milwaukee.
He also congratulated law enforcement on the 20-year decline in crime rates before harping on a recent two-year uptick in violent crime.
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“That trend has reversed. The violent crime rate is up by nearly 7 percent. Robberies are up. Assaults are up nearly 10 percent,” Sessions told the room. “Rape is up by nearly 11 percent. Murder is up by more than 20 percent.”
Absent, of course, was any context for these numbers—whether Sessions was talking about arrests or reports was unclear, for example. And an “increase in rape reports and arrests” (which are notoriously under-reported anyway) doesn’t necessarily indicate that more rapes are happening. Sessions also failed to mention that these increases, while troubling, are still low when viewed within the 20-year period Sessions had just praised.
Early reports from the Brennan Center for Justice (pdf) also indicate that 2017 may see a reduction in the violent-crime rate, which is being attributed to lower crime rates in Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
Sessions was unconcerned with the facts, though, choosing instead to push his favorite pet theories: that drug use is driving homicide rates and that aggressive policing and prosecution would rein in the problem.
Citing a 2015 DOJ study, Sessions told Milwaukee law enforcement that “nearly a quarter of the increase in homicides” were drug-related.
“It’s why I keep saying that drug trafficking is an inherently violent business,” Sessions added.
Sessions didn’t mention how many of those homicides were carried out with a trafficked gun—but why would he? He’s repeatedly made clear that he has no interest in imposing harsher punishments for gun violations, because fidelity to the Second Amendment is more important than driving down the homicide rate.
Sessions also shared statistics about the increase in deaths from drug overdoses—a tangent that mostly served to underscore Sessions’ rationale for reigniting a war on drugs.
And in case you were wondering how Sessions plans to bring violent crime rates to heel—and who will suffer—the attorney general made it abundantly clear in the following lines (emphasis mine):
But let me tell you this: we will not allow the progress made by our women and men in blue over the past two decades to simply slip through our fingers now. Plain and simple: We will not cede a community, a block, or a street corner to violent thugs or poison peddlers.
This is a call-to-arms for the law enforcement community to double down on drug offenders—and the use of the word “thugs” here makes it very clear who’s first on Sessions’ list. That a nationwide increase in violent offenses has been exaggerated by the administration makes this all the more worrisome.
On Tuesday, Sessions will be in North Carolina, where he’s scheduled to formally announce the DOJ’s strategies to combat violent crime.
Read more at Fox 6 Milwaukee.