Justice Department braces for surge in violent crime
Yet the federal government, for all its sweeping investigative powers, plays a supporting role when it comes to tackling street crime. The Department of Justice prosecutes major drug and arms trafficking cases, provides technical support for gun tracing and other evidence analysis, and distributes billions in grants to supplement departmental budgets premises which are mainly paid for by the taxpayers of the region.
Over the past year, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has announced a series of measures intended to bolster efforts to address rising crime rates, at a time when the administration as a whole is concerned about dire political consequences of the perception it leaves the situation spiraling out of control.
They include the creation of five “strike forces” that work with local law enforcement to disrupt gun trafficking; an initiative of the Drug Enforcement Administration to combat violent drug-related crime and address overdose deaths in 34 cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Memphis and Detroit; a $139 million initiative to hire 1,000 officers in understaffed local departments; and a rule that effectively prohibits the production and sale of homemade “ghost guns,” which fuel gun violence on the West Coast.
In December, Congress provided $1.6 billion in additional funding for government departments and community groups to address violent crime and community justice. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who has tried to balance local law enforcement support with the administration’s social justice agenda, oversees some of these initiatives.
There has also been an increase in lawsuits. In recent weeks, the department has filed a series of major gun cases, including an indictment against an illegal gun dealer in Texas who sold 75 firearms that were later linked to homicides, drug trafficking and other crimes.
But the biggest recent boost, from the department’s perspective, may be among the less showy: confirmations from U.S. attorneys whose nominations had previously been blocked by Republicans in the Senate, giving frontline federal prosecutors more stability in the aggressive pursuit of business. One of them is Jacqueline C. Romero, the new leader of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which includes Philadelphia, who took over the office shortly before Ms. Monaco‘s visit.