Thursday, October 1, 1998

President Clinton and I took office 5 ½ years ago with a basic, unwavering belief: that every single American has a right to live in safety. That's why we have made an unprecedented commitment to fighting crime in communities across America. We are proud of the fact that crime has dropped for six years in a row -- the longest period of decline since President Eisenhower was in the White House. Overall, crime is down to its lowest level in more than a quarter of a century.

This historic reduction in crime didn't happen by accident. It took uncommon valor from America's law enforcement officers -- a renewed sense of community action all across America -- and a new national crime-fighting strategy, merging three elements that had never before been combined: more police, stronger punishment, and smarter prevention.

We have also learned: if we are going to reduce crime once and for all, we must give law enforcement the 21st Century tools and technology they need to do the job. For too long, we've seen criminals go free because the methods used to gather evidence weren't up to the task. Cutting-edge technology makes it harder for criminals to get away with their crimes. I can tell you first-hand: it works. In Los Angeles, I saw new technology that lets police report from their squad cars, rather than returning to the station to fill out paperwork. That means they can spend more time on the streets -- fighting crime where it really counts.

Today, I am proud to make a series of announcements that will give law enforcement more of the 21st Century tools they need to protect our communities.

First, I am proud to announce more than $229 million in new funds to help station houses across America computerize their patrol cars, buy laptop computers, hire support staff, and purchase other new crime-fighting tools. These funds are part of our innovative COPS MORE program, which gets officers out from behind desks -- and out onto the streets to fight crime in new and creative ways. The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department in North Carolina, for example, is using laptop computers to fight domestic violence. If a police officer answering a domestic violence call sees that alcohol abuse lies behind a family's problems, that officer can download a list of nearby alcohol treatment opportunities. Not only does this enable the officer to intervene in the most effective way -- the family comes away with information that could end up saving lives.

We are also releasing a new study that shows how crime-fighting technology saves both time and money. Five minutes spent on a laptop computer, for example, allows an officer to save up to three hours he would have spent running back and forth to the station. We estimate that the new COPS MORE funds we are releasing today will enable roughly 8,900 cops to get back out on the beat. That will make an enormous difference to our communities.

Second, we are launching an initiative to promote the development of innovative crime mapping technology, and encourage its use across the country. This technology allows officers to track crime as it happens, so they can deploy resources faster and better. At One Police Plaza in New York, I saw how this kind of crime-mapping system can help target police deployment, and dramatically reduce crime. This initiative builds on more than $1 million we recently awarded to five universities to develop crime-mapping technology to use in seven cities and two counties across America. I am also announcing the creation of a new task force between our Justice Department and our National Partnership for Reinventing Government to get this technology into the hands of law enforcement officials. This also builds on our announcement last month of a new federal policy to help law enforcement track criminal activity on-line --while actually strengthening privacy for families and businesses.

Third, we are also taking new steps to protect our police, as they protect us all. As we all know, body armor -- like bullet proof vests -- was designed to keep officers safe. But when criminals wear body armor, it increases the likelihood that they will commit violent crime. No family should be forced to suffer the pain and heartbreak of the Guelff (GELF) family. The gunman that so tragically ended Jim Guelff's life held 120 police officers at bay for half an hour before an officer was able to penetrate a gap in his armor. At the National Police Officers Memorial Service in May, I called for tougher penalties against criminals who commit federal crimes while wearing body armor. Just as criminals suffer greater punsihment for crimes involving a gun, I believe criminals should suffer greater punishment for wearing body armor. Today, we are officially transmitting legislation to Congress that requires a minimum of five years in prison for criminals who use body armor. Now I say to the United States Congress: pass this new police protection bill into law.

Our message today is clear: the safety of our streets and the safety of our communities is one of the highest priorities we share. And as criminals use more sophisticated 21st Century means and methods to commit their crimes, we must ensure that our men and women in blue have the tools and resources they need to keep us safe and secure. By giving them the tools they need to do their jobs better, not only will we keep them safer -- not only will we make the thin blue line that much thicker -- we will make all of America safer and stronger for our future. Thank you.

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