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Biden tells states to extend cops, mental health programs to fight crime

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event on gun control within the Rose Garden on the White House April 8, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Friday urged states and cities to make use of federal funds to speculate in additional cops, crisis responders and mental-health and substance-abuse programs to curb crime.

The president is anticipated to talk later within the day and ask local leaders to deploy leftover money from the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus law, to assist communities fight crime through the summer months.

Local governments have already used some $10 billion from the federal pandemic aid package to strengthen law enforcement and fund programs that aim to maintain neighborhoods safer, senior administration officials told reporters.

The push comes as Biden tries to indicate an effort to deal with concerns about crime during a critical election 12 months for his Democratic Party. Fear about crime and violence within the U.S. touched its highest level since 2016 in April, in line with a Gallup poll. Some 53% of Americans now say they worry a “great deal” about lawbreaking.

Concerns amongst city residents have increased essentially the most. Greater than half, or 58%, of urban respondents now say they worry a “great deal” about crime, up 9 percentage points from 2021.

A dramatic rise in gun violence has likely contributed to those polling trends. The firearm homicide rate in 2020 rose to its highest level in a quarter-century, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

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Democrats are split on how best to make sure safer communities. Progressives have in recent times called to slash police department budgets across the country within the wake of a string of high-profile killings of Black people by white officers.

More moderate Democrats, including Biden, have said higher trained police forces are the important thing to safer communities. The president wants “more cops on the beat for accountable community policing,” the White House said Friday.

The difficulty of how one can reform police departments guarantees to play a key role within the 2022 midterm elections that may determine whether Democrats retain control of Congress. Many Republican candidates have found early success in polls through attacks on certain Democrats’ plans to gut police funding — which they view as dangerous.

Biden will meet Friday with local elected officials, chiefs of police and a community violence intervention expert representing U.S. cities which have used American Rescue Plan funds to fight crime.

The president will then offer public comments on those efforts and encourage other towns and cities to make their very own investments, the White House said.

“President Biden believes that Americans need to feel protected irrespective of where they live,” the administration said. “He’s committed to using every tool at his disposal to fight violent crime.”

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