Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday announced a new initiative to combat violence and boost public safety by pledging federal resources to help 12 cities fight crime.
The new federal effort came ahead of Sessions' speech at the opening of the National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety outside of Washington. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to address the two-day summit attendees on Wednesday.
"Turning back the recent troubling increase of violent crime in our country is a top priority of the Department of Justice and the Trump administration, as we work to fulfill the president's promise to make America safe again," Sessions said in a statement.
The initiative will start with 12 cities joining the Justice Department's newly formed National Public Safety Partnership, dubbed "PSP." The new PSP program comes on the heels of President Trump's February executive order on public safety.
According to the Justice Department, the initial 12 cities are that ones need "significant assistance" in combating "gun crime, drug trafficking and gang violence."
In remarks to the summit crowd, Sessions noted the program is aimed at fighting a "real" spike in violent crime.
"Our nation's violent crime rate is rising. In many of our urban areas, this increase is staggering," he said. "Every American, no matter who they are, where they live, has the right to live in safe homes, in safe neighborhoods."
The 12 cities are:
- Baton Rouge, La.
- Birmingham, Ala.
- Buffalo, N.Y.
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Houston, Texas
- Indianapolis, Ind.
- Jackson, Tenn.
- Kansas City, Mo.
- Lansing, Mich.
- Memphis, Tenn.
- Springfield, Ill.
- Toledo, Ohio
More cities are expected to be announced in the coming months, the Justice Department said.
Notably missing from the list are Chicago and Baltimore, two cities that have been rocked by gun violence and homicides this year.
Sessions was introduced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein amid a wave of criticism from President Trump, who has criticized the Justice Department and its top officials on Twitter. Last week, the president called the department's investigation into links between Russia and his presidential campaign a "witch hunt" let by Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by Rosenstein.
Sessions praised Rosenstein by saying: "We are fortunate indeed to have someone of Rod's caliber and experience serving as deputy attorney general."
On Feb. 9, Trump signed an executive order directing the Justice Department to "take the lead on federal actions to support law enforcement efforts nationwide and to collaborate with State, tribal, and local jurisdictions to restore public safety to all of our communities."
The Justice Department then launched the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety weeks later, which now includes the new PSP program.
The Obama administration launched a similar program in 2014 called the Violence Reduction Network, which gave resources in an "all-hands" approach to reduce violence in a handful of cities rocked by crime nationwide.