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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 14, 2001
Remarks by the President on Project Safe Neighborhoods
Pennsylvania Convention Center
11:32 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You're still the man, Mr. Mayor. (Laughter.) It's an honor to be introduced by the Mayor. One of the reasons why I asked him to sit next to Laura during my State of the Union address -- or State of the Budget address, I guess -- is because of the fantastic work the Mayor has done with faith-based programs in Philadelphia.
He understands that government is limited. We can spend money; but what government cannot do is put hope into hearts of our fellow citizens. And, Mr. Mayor, I appreciate your leadership and I'm honored that you would welcome me to this great city. I was thinking coming in that, had things worked out differently, Philadelphia could have been the nation's capital. And I would have been calling you, neighbor. And we would have had a baseball team in the nation's capital and it would have been a pretty good one, too. (Laughter.)
I'm honored to be traveling with the Attorney General, who I'll introduce in a minute. It's a great honor to be with the Senior Senator from the state of Pennsylvania -- that's Arlen Specter; as well as the Junior Senator, Rick Santorum. Thank you both for being here. (Applause.)
And we've got members of the congressional delegation here, as well: Weldon, Hoeffel and Toomey. I want to thank you guys for coming. We're flying back on Air Force One; I look forward to listening to what you need to tell me. I probably won't do it but, nevertheless, I look forward to listening. (Laughter.)
I'm honored to be here with the Lieutenant Governor and the Attorney General of the great state of Pennsylvania. I'm sorry my close friend, the Governor, is not here, but I understand he's trying to drum up some business for the state of Pennsylvania, so he's got an excused absence.
It's such an honor to be here with leaders of the National Law Organization, such as my friend, Gil Gallegos, from the state of New Mexico, who is the President of the Fraternal Order of Police. Thank you for being here, Gil. As well as the other leaders.
And, most importantly, it's an honor to be here with the men and women who wear the blue, and I want to thank you for your service to your community and to your nation. (Applause.)
And like the Mayor, I congratulate those officers who were promoted to corporal. It's a well-deserved honor, and it's fitting that it come on National Police Week. I want to express my appreciation to all in this city who are involved with law enforcement, and thank you for your skill and your dedication and, most importantly, your bravery on behalf of your fellow citizens.
During the last several years, violent crime in America has been decreasing. And all Americans are grateful. Between 1989 and 1999, the violent crime rate dropped 20 percent. And that's a huge accomplishment. It really is. But, unfortunately, American society is still far too violent. The violent crime rate in the United States remains among the highest in the industrialized world.
Nationally, there were 12,658 murders in 1999, two-thirds of which were shooting deaths. And for every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it.
Like most major urban centers -- cities -- in America, Philadelphia suffered from a stunning rise in violent crime. However, Philadelphia, as the Mayor mentioned, has made great progress. For example, in 1990, there were 500 murders; last year there were 319. And the Mayor deserves a lot of credit; so does the Police Commissioner and the policemen and women of Philadelphia. And for that, we're incredibly grateful. And we're grateful for programs such as Operation Sunrise and Safe and Sound and Youth Violence Reduction Project, which, Mr. Mayor, is making your city more safe and more secure for all of the citizens.
But gun violence is still a serious problem. Three out of four murder victims in this city are shot to death with handguns. Among young victims, that figure rises to almost nine out of 10. In America today, a teenager is more likely to die from a gunshot than from all natural causes of death combined. These details have caused too many families to bury the next generation. And for all our children's sake, this nation must reclaim our neighborhoods and our streets.
We need a national strategy to assure that every community is attacking gun violence with focus and intensity. I'm here today to announce a national initiative to help cities like Philadelphia fight gun violence. The program I propose we call Project Safe Neighborhoods will establish a network of law enforcement and community initiatives targeted at gun violence. I will involve -- it will involve an unprecedented partnership between all levels of government. It will increase accountability within our systems. And it will send an unmistakable message: if you use a gun illegally, you will do hard time.
This nation must enforce the gun laws which exist on the books. Project Safe Neighborhoods incorporates and builds upon the success of existing programs. In Richmond, Virginia, for example, during the first year of what's called Project Exile, homicides were reduced by 40 percent; and armed robberies were reduced by 30 percent, in the first year alone. And thanks to Boston's Operation Cease-fire, in almost two years, no one under the age of 17 was shot.
These are tremendous success stories, and ones that are worth duplicating around our nation. My administration is proposing to devote more than $550 million on Project Safe Neighborhoods over the next two years. (Applause.) The funding will be used to hire new federal and state prosecutors, to support investigators, to provide training and develop and promote community outreach efforts. All newly appointed United States Attorneys will be directed to certify to the Attorney General that the new comprehensive gun violence program has been implemented in their districts. (Applause.)
We're going to reduce gun violence in America, and those who commit crimes with guns will find a determined adversary in my administration. Domestic tranquility is a phrase made famous in this city. Project Safe Neighborhoods is one step, and an important step, to making that a reality.
And now to explain the program is a fine American, a great Attorney General, John Ashcroft. (Applause.)
11:40 A.M. EDT