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U.S.-Local Plan Unveiled to Curb Violent Crime

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Warning that crime and the fear of crime “are tearing this country apart,” Vice President Al Gore and other senior officials Tuesday unveiled a federal initiative to help states and local law enforcement agencies apprehend violent criminals.

Meant to complement the sweeping crime bill that President Clinton is urging Congress to pass, the measure could significantly increase the federal government’s role in prosecuting violent crimes--a task for which local and state authorities have been primarily responsible in the past.

Gore, appearing at a White House news conference with Atty. Gen. Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, said that the Administration would offer local law enforcement officials federal resources and expertise to help them “proactively attack crime and root out the most serious criminals” in their communities.

He said that the Administration could take the necessary steps unilaterally, without need for legislation.

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Reno called it the beginning of a “true partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies” to monitor the activities of gang members and other “career criminals” and prosecute them in both state and federal courts.

To make it work, she said, the Justice Department would create a Violent Crime Section staffed by federal prosectors with experience in convicting violent criminals.

The “violent crime response teams,” as the groups of prosecutors will be known, will help communities that ask for assistance with prosecutions, Reno said. The FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency, along with the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, will give technical help and share information with local law enforcement agencies.

Citing a pilot program in New Haven, Conn., where federal-state cooperation helped to break up a local street gang and lower the annual murder rate by one-third over the last year, Reno said that the initiative would “repeat New Haven’s success across the nation.”

Together with the crime bill passed by the Senate but still awaiting action in the House, the “Anti-Violent Crime Enforcement Initiative” forms the core of the Clinton Administration’s response to polls showing that Americans now regard violent crime as the nation’s most serious problem.

Reno and other officials acknowledged that the initiative would involve no new financial resources. Instead, it will rely on a reallocation of existing funds, coupled with promises by various law enforcement agencies to set aside their frequent turf battles.

“This is not a fancy proposal . . . (but) a brick and mortar proposal where we are putting things together. . . . What it involves is people working together,” Reno said.

In Los Angeles, cooperation between local police and DEA agents already has helped solve “a number of homicides,” while federal resources have been used to help police track the movements of youth gangs in the Midwest, Reno said. She added that this kind of “sporadic” cooperation now will be done nationwide.

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