Tuesday, October 14, 1997

Tyree, thank you so much for that introduction and for all of the incredible things you do. You are an individual who sets an example for all of us -- one person who makes a profound difference in the lives of many. I am so happy to see that you are being honored and that your efforts can be shared so that others are inspired to act as you have.

I'd also like to recognize the other award winners, Charlotte Austin Jordan, Robert Armstrong, Sherman Spears, Gail Hoffman, Chloe Coney, Michael Turner, and James-etta Harris -- their stories too will inspire and invigorate all of us to do more in our daily lives.

I'd also like to recognize Jack Calhoun of the National Crime Prevention Council, Robbie Calloway of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, the members of the President's Council on Crime Prevention, and most especially, the many others of you here today who work in your communities and in your jobs to turn the tide of violence that has afflicted our nation.

I am often asked how people should introduce me for an event of this nature and am never quite sure how to respond. I've been called many things, some of which I won't go into. Sometimes I'm called the Second Lady, which always makes me feel as if I should have just tried a little harder. Other times, I'm known as the Second First Lady, which is better, but a bit confusing. I was once even introduced as the Second Lady of Vice.

I know many of you were expecting the Vice President to speak this morning. However, given my designation as Second Lady of Vice, we both decided that it was appropriate that I address you instead.

Seriously though, as many of you who have worked so long in the crime prevention effort know, there is cause for celebration. The FBI announced their final crime statistics for 1996 and the news is encouraging. Overall crime is down for the fifth year in a row, with the biggest reductions coming in violent crime and murders. Even the arrest rate for violent juveniles, which had skyrocketed for seven years, has now gone down for two years in a row. The drop in the murder rate was so significant, in fact, that projected life expectancies have been raised to a new high of 76.

For five years, President Clinton and my husband Al have worked hard to provide the resources needed to combat crime. Together with the Congress, they passed the toughest and smartest crime bill ever aimed at:

But this is only one focus of a balanced approach that couples tough law enforcement with strong crime prevention tactics. With the passage of the hard fought Brady Bill, this Administration defeated the gun lobby and has blocked more than 60,000 fugitives, felons and other criminals from purchasing handguns. We have also banned the manufacture and importation of 19 of the deadliest assault weapons available.

Other important initiatives have included tripling the funding for battered women's shelters; and providing $275 million in state grants to bolster local law enforcement, prosecution and victims' services. We have also established a nationwide 24-hour domestic violence hotline which provides immediate crisis intervention, counseling and referrals for those in need.

The Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act has reduced violence and drug abuse in our schools by investing in school security, drug prevention programs, counseling and has promoted a "zero tolerance" gun policy in our nation's schools.

Coordination has taken place across federal agencies to help communities in prevention efforts. The Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development are collaborating to attack problems in and around public housing; and the Department of Agriculture has developed its 4H program to provide after-school programs in housing projects.

We know it takes more than good government; it takes good people on the streets working every day to make a change. Changes in the way local law enforcement approaches crime are already making a huge difference. For instance, in Boston, Police Commissioner Paul Evans, who you will hear more from later, has had remarkable success in fighting violence. In fact, no juvenile has been killed by a firearm in Boston for the past two years.

Commissioner Evans has the right idea. He understands that it's not just more police, it's more collaboration between law enforcement and community organizations that's turning the tide. This means not just punishing the criminals, but also preventing the crime before it happens.

The merging of law enforcement and community programs has given rise to a remarkable growth in community policing which is reaping wonderful results all across America. In Old Saybrook, Connecticut, the town's community policing program is based in the Saybrook Shopping Center, making it easier for residents and parents to stop in and take advantage of services and resources such as child identification kits. Chicago's community policing program involves five other city departments and community organizations in the effort to combat crime. The "Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy," known as CAPS, reorganized police around small geographical areas where beat teams worked with community members to solve problems. 911 calls were shifted to rapid response teams and tactical units to take the burden off the community police units. The result: murder and robbery rates dropped 7.7 percent and sexual assaults fell 12.5 percent in the first five months of 1997.

From law enforcement to juvenile justice to community youth programs aimed at crime prevention -- it is the powerful role that each and every one of you here today is playing that is behind the success stories around the country and the change in our nation's statistics with regard to crime.

I'd also like to take special note of the programs targeting crime prevention among youth. They play such an important role in providing role models and positive after-school activities for youth that keeps them off the street, out of danger and out of trouble. Successful programs include: Big Brothers/Big Sisters Mentoring, which has resulted in children 46% less likely to use drugs, 27% less likely to use alcohol and 33% less likely to commit assault; and Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which, among other successes, has initiated programs resulting in a 13% reduction in juvenile crime in targeted public housing projects.

The message here is clear: early investment in our nation's youth leads to less crime down the road. Don't just take my word on it. Ask any cop on the beat. In fact, 90% of police chiefs surveyed think adequate funding of juvenile crime prevention programs would be the most effective way to reduce crime in the long run. And, we cannot forget that it costs far less to prevent crimes than it does to treat the aftermath, and victims, of violent crime. And, while the cost of violence in dollars is high, the cost in human suffering is even higher.

While so much progress has been made, we all know that there's still much more that needs to be done.

In just the past few weeks, our news has been filled with shocking stories of crimes commited by and against children that are unthinkable and unconscienable. A young girl is gunned down in her car when she stops to apologize for bumping a bicyclist; an 11-year-old boy selling merchandise door-to-door for a school fundraiser is sexually assaulted and killed; a 15-year-old boy strangles an 8-year-old girl because she wouldn't get off the phone. It's frightening to think that we are raising a generation of children without conscience and without a basic understanding of the value of human life.

How did this come to pass? There are certainly many reasons for this, but we cannot ignore the obvious -- our children continue to be exposed to violence in the culture around us; bombarded daily with violent messages in the news, in the headlines and even in their entertainment.

The typical child watches 25,000 hours of television before his or her 18th birthday. There, they will witness nearly a quarter of a million violent acts, including 16,000 murders, by the time they graduate high school. Is it a wonder that they have become so desensitized to violence?

The Administration is working hard to address this reality. We continue to promote improved television ratings and require the installation of anti-violence screening chips, known as V-chips, in all new televisions -- to give parents better tools to limit their children's exposure to violence.

We are also working to promote and enforce voluntary compliance of the use of child safety locks for guns.

We are working with Congress to enact a juvenile crime bill that includes assured money for crime prevention, assures continued separation of delinquents from adult detainees in state custody, and takes steps to break the link between children and guns in our communities. We are also working to expand the Brady Law to prevent juveniles convicted of violent crimes from buying guns when they turn 18.

And, together, we can promote parental involvement in every aspect of our children's lives. We know that a parent's love can do more than anything else to keep a child in school, away from drugs and alcohol, and free of violence.

And, when parents cannot be there for those children, we must, as so many of you in this room are doing, find every way possible to give them good role models, mentors, and a caring community.

Over the past five years, we have shown that we can reverse a decade of rising crime and break the cycle of violence. Community-based, collaborative efforts have proven to be the key to early crime prevention. If we continue to work with each of you, we can take responsibility for ourselves and our families, and we can keep the crime rate going down -- block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, and city by city, all across America.

As a society, we must teach our children that they are valued, and in turn, teach them to value others. We must arm our children with self-worth, not guns. And, we must turn our national consensus on crime prevention into a national conscience that lets our children know that human life is precious and that we all have a stake in promoting that.

Thank you to each and every one of you here today for your work in the trenches to make a difference in the lives of all people.

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