U.S. Civil Rights Commissioners to AG Merrick Garland: U.S. Attorneys Must ‘Increase Prosecutions in Cities Where Local Prosecutors’ Are Soft on Crime

Attorney General Merrick Garland

In a letter obtained by The Star News Network, four commissioners of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights express their “urgent concerns” to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland about the radical increase in violent crime in America, and ask him to direct the Department of Justice to escalate prosecutions of violent criminals.

U.S. Civil Rights Commissioners Peter Kirsanow (R), Gail Heriot (I), J. Christian Adams (R), and Stephen Gilchrist (R), wrote to Garland Thursday, “not on behalf of the Commission as a whole,” of their concerns about the significant rise in crime “that has affected our nation over the past two years.”

“This increase harms all Americans, but it especially hurts our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens, particularly those who live in our largest cities,” the commissioners observe, adding:

Because we are so alarmed, we ask that you direct the Department of Justice to study the cause of this increase and direct the U.S. attorneys to escalate their prosecution of these violent criminals. It is particularly important that U.S. Attorneys increase prosecutions in cities where local prosecutors have declared their reluctance to prosecute crime.

The commissioners note that, while some “elites” who are “perhaps insulated from the destruction of crime,” may have developed apathy about the difficulties facing those living in cities, they may also “mistakenly believe that the police are a greater threat to minority communities than are criminals.”

The four officials alert the attorney general to a similar response to the uptick in violent crime on the part of some other of their fellow commissioners:

Even some of our colleagues at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights approach the increase in crime with similar sentiments, despite their leadership in a federal agency whose mission is “to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws.”

The commissioners provide some data about the radical increase in violent crime in the United States:

According to FBI data, homicides increased nearly 30% from 2019 to 2020. Likewise aggravated assaults increased by 11.5%. Motor vehicle theft increased by 11.7% and arson by 23%. Sixty-three of the 66 largest police jurisdictions saw increases in at least one category of violent crime in 2020, which include homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. And although the FBI will not release 2021 crime data until September 2022, reports from individual cities suggest that violent crime continues to climb. According to media reports, several cities set new homicide records in 2021 and many that did not set new records still experienced increases over 2020. For example, in 2021 New York City experienced a 4% increase in murders over 2020. This 4% increase comes on top of the 46.7% increase in murders the city experienced in 2020.

“Crime harms everyone,” the four commissioners wrote, “but it disproportionately affects our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens — particularly those who live in our largest cities, and frequently those who are racial and ethnic minorities. We have witnessed how crime destroys these neighborhoods.”

In 2018, Commissioner Heriot wrote about the positive effects of living without constant fear of crime:

When law-abiding people don’t need to be constantly worrying about crime, they can spend their time achieving their own goals instead. Instead of staying home after dark, they can take a course in accounting at the local community college. They can earn money for a down payment on a house by working a part-time job at a local shopping mall. Instead of spending money to put bars on their windows, they can buy a used car that will get them to an out-of-the-way work site where the pay is better. They can have a picnic in the park. They can get to know their neighbors.

The effects of the fear of crime on law-abiding citizens, however, are enormous, the commissioners continue, noting that “many law-abiding citizens are unable to access resources and services that others can access”:

Ineffective governments unable to police and prosecute crime cause these citizens to become essentially prisoners in their own communities: Too many of our children don’t play in neighborhood public parks because crime has overtaken them; too many neighborhood schools serve as “pipelines to mediocrity” instead of institutions of learning; too many emergency services become inaccessible when residents are in constant fear.

The commissioners pose to Garland questions about the possible causes for the increase in violent crime, including “local prosecutors … whose sole aim is ‘to obstruct prosecution itself;’” “irresponsible state governments” bent on a level of criminal reform that makes it “difficult, if not impossible, for judges to detain violent and career criminals’; and the “defund the police movement.”

Regarding the voices intent on defunding law enforcement, the commissioners add:

So many politicians either advocated for this policy or stayed quiet on it since the summer of 2020, including the current administration which initially “had little to say about the surge of violent crime.”

“But now that our political winds have shifted, you should find very little to deter you from determining the cause of the increase and directing our U.S. attorneys to increase their prosecution of these violent criminals when it is within their jurisdiction to do so,” the four officials concluded, adding, “We look forward to your timely response.”

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]



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