(CNN)A nationwide surge in violent crime has emerged as a growing area of concern inside the White House, where President Joe Biden and his aides have listened with alarm as local authorities warn a brutal summer of killing lies ahead.
Biden plans to address the spike in shootings, armed robberies and vicious assaults on Wednesday afternoon following a meeting with state and local officials, law enforcement representatives and others involved in combating the trend. He hopes to dampen what has already become a cudgel for Republicans eager to run a “law and order” campaign in next year’s midterm elections.
The President is poised to announce a comprehensive crime reduction strategy on Wednesday, officials said, in hopes of reducing gun violence and addressing the root causes of the spike. He is also set to press Congress to confirm David Chipman as his nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Across the country, the easing of pandemic restrictions paired with the onset of warmer weather has led to a troubling increase in crime, much of it involving guns. After years of decreasing crime statistics, the homicide rate surged in major cities in 2020 and that trend appears poised to continue this year. Last weekend, there were 10 mass shootings across nine states that killed seven people and injured at least 45 others, according to data compiled by CNN and Gunviolencearchive.org.
Already, the uptick is becoming a potent political issue for a President who worked over the past two years to carefully calibrate his approach to criminal justice, resisting pressure from the left to support defunding the police while justifying his role in writing major anti-crime bills from the 1990s.
The politics of the moment are further complicated by the prospect of bipartisan police reform legislation, which is slowly moving its way through Congress.
The decision by the White House to devote an afternoon of the President’s time to focus on the nation’s rising crime rate underscores how serious the matter is being taken inside the West Wing. The wave of violent crime is not only seen as an impediment to the economic recovery from the pandemic, but also as a potential political threat that could give Republicans an opening in their midterm election fight against Democrats.
Biden’s aides have sought to put the numbers in context, noting the current upswing in crime began before he entered office.
“There’s been, actually, a rise in crime over the last five years, but really the last 18 months,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
Can’t ‘just arrest our way out of this’
For months, state and local officials have been sounding the alarm about the toll that shootings, carjackings, armed robberies, assaults and more have been taking on communities.
“We have seen the data change, peoples’ state of mind change, ever since the Covid pandemic has presented so many challenges from the economic hardship, the stress, the anxiety,” Chief Murphy Paul, of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Louisiana, told CNN “Newsroom” on Monday. “We have to deal with the causes of crime and not just arrest our way of this.”
White House officials hope to take steps that will better link federal law enforcement resources with state and local govern
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