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Attorney General Merrick Garland stops short of calling crime wave a crisis: ‘Matter of considerable concern’

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland called the uptick in violent crime in cities across the country a “matter of considerable concern” but stopped short of acknowledging it as a crisis. 

Asked by NBC News’ Lester Holt in an interview that aired Tuesday whether the rise in violent crime in America is a “crisis,” Garland didn’t use the word “crisis” to describe the situation. 

“I think violent crime is a matter of considerable concern to the country and to the Justice Department, as it should be. The ability of people in our communities to walk their streets in confidence and safety is yet another element of democracy in which we live a part of our civic life. Part of the Justice Department’s mission is to protect the people [of the] United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and domestic includes violent crime,” Garland said.

The cooperation of federal law enforcement agencies, such as between the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), is an important element in combating the rise in gun violence many communities are grappling with, Garland said.

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Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference, June 13, 2022, at the Department of Justice in Washington. On Tuesday, Garland talked about the crime wave gripping parts of the country.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Garland also cited other issues facing investigators as they try to solve crimes, such as the disconnect between the police and the communities they serve. 

“Communities have to trust us,” he told Holt. “We don’t get witnesses if they don’t trust us. We have to feel comfortable with them.”

“For that reason, we’re pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into police departments and into communities in a joint effort to battle violent crime together,” Garland added. 

Holt also brought up a recent comment by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who said criminals no longer respect law enforcement because of progressive bail rules that allow some to go free, even for serious offenses. 

In June, a clearly frustrated Adams lashed out at prosecutors and judges who allow violent offenders to be released back onto the streets. 

“No one takes criminal justice seriously anymore,” Adams said during a news briefing. “These bad guys no longer take them seriously. They believe our criminal justice system is a laughingstock of our entire country.”

New York Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a news conference at City Hall in New York City on Jan. 24.

New York Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a news conference at City Hall in New York City on Jan. 24.
(Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

“I’ve spoken to the mayor many times. We spent some considerable amount of time in New York looking at the way in which our federal agents, our federal prosecutors and state and local prosecutors, all working together in fusion centers, evaluate a list of the top shooters, the people who are the most important drivers of violent crime in New York City,” Garland said in response.

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“We are all working together carefully; to locate those shooters, to arrest them, to take them off the street and make sure that they see swift and certain justice,” he added. 

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