Holder to address crime 'hot-spots'

Chicago Police And Neighborhood Officials Escort Children To School
Chicago Police officers watch as students leave an elemantery school in Chicago on Aug. 28, 2013.  The officers were posted at the school along with other police officers and city workers to provide "safe passage" to students walking to the school. 

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder will be joining police officials and community groups from across the country on Wednesday to discuss how alliances between law enforcement and neighborhood stakeholders can effectively help bring down crime and violence.

Holder and Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Secretary for Housing & Urban Development, will serve as keynote speakers for the Safe Streets, Strong Communities Symposium in New York City, hosted by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Police Foundation.

The half-day-long symposium, held at the Ford Foundation, will feature speakers and panelists from various cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Milwaukee.

According to the LISC, the conference will highlight successful ways that collaborations on the local level and wrap-around services for residents, including quality housing and safe spaces for families, have been effective in replacing so-called “hot-spot” policing in which certain neighborhoods are essentially flooded with additional police officers.

“Cities and neighborhoods across America need new tools in the fight against crime,” said Michael Rubinger, CEO of LISC. “Our approach trains the police and local community organizations to partner and find solutions not only through arrests, but also by changing the built environment. Doing so changes neighborhoods as well as the culture of how law enforcement, community groups, and residents interact. We’re excited to examine these practices in depth at Wednesday’s conference.”

Every day in America, an average of 32 people are killed with guns, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Another 140 are wounded by gunfire each day. The cost of gun violence isn't tallied in blood alone. According to the Brady Campaign, arrest and court costs, additional security measures and overall reductions in quality of life all associated with gun violence costs Americans $100 billion annually.Still, with the daily drumming of gun violence and the growing number of mass shootings, federal lawmakers have been unable or unwilling to enact stricter gun control measures.

Holder and the Obama administration have urged lawmakers to confront America’s epidemic of gun violence with universal background checks for gun purchases, bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and harsher penalties for illegal gun trafficking. So far, little has compelled federal lawmakers to act.

But since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, states have taken bold steps in addressing gun laws. Some, including Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, New York and Maryland, bolstered their existing gun laws. While other states including many Southern and Midwestern states like Arkansas, Kansas and Louisiana loosened already lax gun laws.

According to recent analysis by the New York Times, about 1,500 state gun laws had been introduced in the year since the Newtown killings— 70 loosen gun restrictions, 39 tighten them. The new laws largely broke along partisan lines, was Republican-controlled legislatures passed nearly all of the laws that loosened gun laws.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration earlier this month issued two new executive actions to strengthen the federal background check system. One of the orders clarified what it means to be committed to a mental health institution to make it clearer who is prohibited from purchasing a firearm.

“We are taking an important, commonsense step to clarify the federal firearms regulations, which will strengthen our ability to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands,” Holder said in a statement when the executive orders were announced. The second order allows additional personal mental health information to be shared with the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

“This step will provide clear guidance on who is prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law for reasons related to mental health, enabling America’s brave law enforcement and public safety officials to better protect the American people and ensure the safety of our homes and communities."