|For Immediate Release
July 20, 2011
Contact:Kim Smith Hicks, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Full Committee Markup of
H.R. 1550, the “Federal Law Enforcement Recruitment and Retention Act of 2011”
Chairman Smith: H.R. 1550, the Federal Law Enforcement Recruitment and Retention Act of 2011, was introduced by Mr. Pierluisi to help focus the Justice Department’s law enforcement efforts on the areas of the country that need them the most.
Crime in the United States began to rise sharply in the 1960s, and continued up to its peak in 1991. In response, Congress and the States reformed their criminal laws, including tougher penalties and truth in sentencing laws, and dedicated additional resources to target the rising crime rate.
It appears that our focus on crime has been successful; since the mid-1990s, crime has significantly decreased. The violent crime rate is the lowest it has been since the mid-1970s, and almost half of what it was in 1991.
Crime in the United States has continued to fall in spite of the difficult economic times. The violent crime rate fell 5.3 percent from 2008 to 2009, and another 5.5 percent from 2009 to 2010.
Despite this encouraging news, we are far from solving the problem of violent crime in all areas of the country. There are still jurisdictions where violent crime remains a very serious issue, and is even on the rise. For example, in my district, the number of murders in the city of Austin nearly doubled last year, from 22 homicides in 2009 to 38 homicides in 2010.
The problem of high crime areas is often compounded by the fact that federal law enforcement positions in certain areas of the country remain vacant. Difficulty with the recruitment and retention of federal law enforcement officers in certain areas is not a new problem. In 2000, a representative of the DEA testified before the House Government Reform Committee that “few personnel from the Continental United States are willing to accept a transfer to Puerto Rico.”
H.R. 1550 directs the Department of Justice to establish a program to consider, in coordination with state and local governments, the need to recruit, assign, and retain federal law enforcement personnel in areas of the country with high rates of homicides and other violent crimes.
We need crime fighters in order to effectively fight crime. While this legislation does not authorize new spending, it does direct the Department to redirect its current resources to address jurisdictions where violent crime remains a serious problem.
H.R. 1550 has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by the law enforcement community. This legislation will help improve the safety of the many Americans who live in fear of violent crime in their neighborhoods.