The Biden administration’s COVID relief dollars are now being directed toward fighting crime. Over the last year and a half, members of the Democratic Party have been at least nominally behind the growing calls for the defunding of police, yet with the recent surge in criminality, it seems that the White House is rejecting this previous push. Crime has escalated since many cities decided to reduce their law enforcement, and now the realization has set in that the need for officers on the street and in the neighborhoods is a top priority. President Joe Biden’s $350 billion American Rescue Plan strategy claims to offer financial support for just that purpose.
According to a White House memo, the strategy will include:
“[F]inancial support and clear guidance to provide state, local, territorial, and tribal governments the money they need to put more police officers on the beat – including hiring above pre-pandemic levels in communities experiencing an increase in gun violence associated with the pandemic – as well as the other resources, training, and accountability they need to engage in effective community policing.”
Additional federal funding is being allocated to focus on cutting down on gun crime. The Department of Justice, as part of that effort, will be launching a gun-trafficking strike force in five areas: Chicago, the Bay Area (CA), Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. The White House also has the Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Collaborative, comprising 16 jurisdictions where city officials work on programs “aimed at sharing resources and best practices to maximize the impact of evidence-driven community violence intervention programs.”
Some major cities have already worked the funds to fight crime into their 2022 fiscal budget.
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has suggested $59 million in the budget to reduce gun violence. This includes $3.4 million to add 100 new slots for the Metropolitan Police Department’s cadet program and $11.4 million to assist prisoners being released from incarceration to readjust in their communities. Other programs incorporate funds for youth safety and $6.8 million for the Department of Behavioral Health, the District Department of Transportation, and the Department of Public Works to handle non-emergency 911 calls for mental health issues as well as minor collisions and parking complaints.
San Jose, CA
The Bay Area city is using some of its federal funding to combat climate change. Mayor Sam Liccardo’s (D) approved budget will go toward helping low-income young adults get jobs in climate resilience, where they will plant trees. He also plans to use the money for pandemic response, among other areas. The city is also part of a strike force to work on reducing gun violence.
New York City
The Fiscal Year 2022 adopted budget puts more than $44 million toward fighting crime, much of it dedicated to programs to help former inmates get jobs and other necessities. It will also reinstate about 200 officers on administrative duties back into the field full time. The Safe Summer NYC program has been expanded, employing 2,000 to help create anti-violence fairs, refurbish basketball courts, and more. It also requires police presence on “the 100 blocks with the highest rate of gun violence.”
Other cities in the Empire State will be taking advantage of Biden’s funding. Utica has plans to support “gun violence prevention and law enforcement career recruiting efforts,” while Watertown will use some of the funding “to reinstate four police officers and two other city staff positions.”
Plans have been announced to use the additional funding to hire and train more police officers as well as pay for overtime for law enforcement. Youth programs and helping people leave criminal lifestyles are also on the agenda.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), who refused former President Donald Trump’s offer of federal troops to help combat her city’s violence, has revealed a public safety strategy that includes increased police presence and longer shifts for officers. Part of the plan will allocate police to 15 “hot spot” areas “that are responsible for more than half of the city’s violence, based on data from the past three summers.”
Many more cities, according to the White House memo, are increasing law enforcement presence. In Kansas City, MO, officials are seeking to “restore police departments to pre-pandemic levels.” Albuquerque, NM, is investing “$3 million to expand a gunshot detection system, $5 million to refurbish station houses, $1 million for new cars and $450,000 to recruit more officers.” And, in Walla Walla, WA, some federal monies will “fund new police hires.”
Read more from Kelli Ballard.