Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trump signs executive actions on crime as Sessions sworn in as attorney general (w/ video)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed three executive actions Thursday that he said directed the Justice Department and Homeland Security to crack down on crime, even as critics contend his administration has exaggerated the nation's crime problems.

At the swearing-in ceremony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump spoke of the "menace of rising crime and the threat of deadly terror" and said Sessions would be "a great protector of the people." Trump campaigned as a "law and order" candidate and routinely spoke about crime rates in America.

"Dangerous times require a determined attorney general, which is what Jeff is," Trump said in the Oval Office.

Sessions handed the orders to Trump, saying that they had been approved by the Justice Department.

The first order directs the Justice Department and Homeland Security to "undertake all necessary and lawful action to break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth and other people, many other people," Trump announced.

That action specifically seeks to strengthen enforcement against crimes including cybercrime and intellectual property theft, as well as human trafficking.

Another order will direct the Justice Department to form a task force on reducing violent crime in America, Trump said.

The third order states that the Trump administration will "pursue appropriate legislation" that will define new crimes, and increase penalties for existing crimes, to prevent violence against federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers.

"Very important, all very important," the president said as he signed the final order.

Trump said this is a message to the gang members and drug dealers: "A new era of justice begins and it begins right now."

Sessions, in his comments after taking the oath of office, said the country has a crime problem.

"I wish the rise we're seeing in crime in America today were some kind of aberration or blip," Sessions said. "This is a dangerous permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk."

Crime analysts generally disagree with that assessment. The violent crime rate increased slightly in 2016, but remains near the bottom of the nation's 30-year downward trend, according to a December analysis of crime data by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

"An increase in the murder rate is occurring in some cities even while other forms of crime remain relatively low," the Brennan Center analysis states. "Concerns about a national crime wave are still premature, but these trends suggest a need to understand how and why murder is increasing in some cities."

Trump in remarks Wednesday to police chiefs of major cities cited murder statistics to say that many communities in America are facing a public safety crisis. He noted that murders in large cities in 2015 experienced their largest single-year increase in nearly half a century, and in 2016 continued to climb by double digits.

"In many of our biggest cities, 2016 brought an increase in the number of homicides, rapes, assaults and shootings," Trump said. "In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone, and the rate so far this year has been even higher. What is going on in Chicago?"

Earlier Wednesday, Trump incorrectly told a law enforcement group that the nation's murder rate was the highest it had been in 45 years - but that rate has been dropping since the 1990s, according to FBI crime statistics. The rate did increase from 2014 to 2015, but still remains lower than 1995.

President Donald Trump watches as Vice President Mike Pence administers the oath of office to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accompanied by his wife, Mary, on Thursday. [Associated Press]

President Donald Trump watches as Vice President Mike Pence administers the oath of office to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accompanied by his wife, Mary, on Thursday. [Associated Press]

Trump signs executive actions on crime as Sessions sworn in as attorney general (w/ video) 02/09/17 [Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2017 4:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  2. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers

    Crime

    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  4. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)

    War

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.
  5. Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic (w/video)

    Military

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday turned a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam-era Army medic who risked his life to help wounded comrades into a mini homework tutorial for the boy and girl who came to watch their grandfather be enshrined "into the history of our nation."

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary Rose (L) receives a standing ovation after being awarded the Medal of Honor by U.S. President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rose, 69, is being recognized for risking his life while serving as a medic with the 5th Special Force Group and the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group during ‘Operation Tailwind’ in September 1970. Ignoring his own injuries, Rose helped treat 50 soldiers over four days when his unit joined local fighters to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos - officially off limits for combat at the time.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 775062921