In a speech in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled that the federal government will double-down on the drug war. He also implied that homicide and other violent crimes are on the rise in the U.S.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics is the federal agency that collects information for Congress on crime in the United States. The BJS noted only small, localized increases in specific areas, whereas the overall trend across the U.S. is a long, profound decrease in homicides since 1991. The FBI found the murder rate is up slightly since 2014, but still far lower than 2006, and the Pew Center confirms that both violent and property crime rates are at historical lows.
“[President] Trump issued a policy to administration to reduce crime, and that’s what I take as my marching order,” said Sessions.
Should the opiate epidemic be characterized as a crime wave?
Sessions said he plans to target the epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction across the U.S., even while many scholars consider the epidemic a public health issue rather than a criminal one. Between 2014 and 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from heroin overdoses grew by 20.6 percent. Nearly 13,000 Americans died from heroin overdoses in 2015.
Sessions apparently sees no connection between over-prescription of opioid medications and the addiction crisis. “Mexican drug cartels are producing new, low-cost heroin,” he claimed.
Finally, he urged an increase in firearms prosecutions, although he offered no specifics on whether weapons offenses themselves are on the rise.
“We need to take criminals with guns off the streets,” Sessions added. “We need to put bad people behind bars.”
When the attorney general of the United States gives a false impression of how many “criminals with guns” are on the streets, people may become unduly afraid. It is important to be truthful and straightforward about the prevalence of crime in our communities — and to avoid condemning addicts and gun lovers as “bad people.”