White House urges cities to use COVID funds to fight crime

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The White House issued a memo to state and local officials across the country Monday urging them to use some of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package to combat crime as violence continues to soar in America’s cities.

The memo details how states and municipalities can use the relief funds to boost law enforcement, invest in community policing, enforce gun laws and assist recently released offenders reenter the community.

White House officials highlighted in the memo that some cities that have used the COVID funds for crime reduction, including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Albuquerque, Kansas City and Syracuse.

“The core of the President’s plan is a partnership with cities and states equipping local leaders with historical levels of federal funding and a range of tools to address the multifaceted challenge of gun violence,” reads the memo, written by White House advisers Susan Rice, Gene Sperling and Julie Rodriguez.

“As cities, counties and states around the country consider how to allocate the historic support they’ve received through the Rescue Plan, we again encourage them to use funding to improve public safety in their communities,” the memo states.

The memo was released on the same day President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland are scheduled to discuss rising crime rates with several big-city mayors and police chiefs.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for New York City mayor, will attend the meeting. All are Democrats.

Also attending the meeting are police chiefs from Memphis, Chicago, Newark, New Jersey, and Mr. Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

The proposal to use COVID relief funds to fight crime builds upon a bigger anti-crime proposal unveiled last month by the president.

Mr. Biden’s plan focuses on using COVID funds to add police officers in some cities, investing in community anti-violence programs and cracking down on gun dealers who break the law.

Homicides rose nearly 30% in 2020 from 2019, according to preliminary data from the government. A recent study by Jeff Asher, who studies crime trends, revealed that the 2021 murder rate is up 18% over the rate in 2020.

Republicans have hammered the Biden administration and Democrats as being soft on crime, trying to link them to the “defund the police” movement that gained steam during last year’s racial justice protests. Mr. Biden has said repeatedly that he does not support reducing law enforcement funding.

The memo released Monday notes that Mr. Biden has asked for an additional $750 million for federal law enforcement agencies in his fiscal 2022 budget.

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