Here is my transcript of the rising murder rate portion of Attorney General Loretta Lynch’ interview on 10/1/2015 at the Atlantic/Aspen Institute Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C.
The interviewer is Chuck Todd of MSNBC.
CT: Let’s talk about the rising crime rate. We’ve seen it here, you know, a select number of cities here where it’s just up significantly, including right here in Washington (D.C). Milwaukee 76%, St. Louis 60%, these are murder rates, Baltimore 56%, Washington 44%. Have you found a trend yet? I know you’re doing a summit in a week on this, so I know that part of your answer is going to be about that summit you’re holding. But, have we come up, do you think it’s statistical noise or is there something happening out there?
LL: Well, you know, I think every loss of life is a tragedy. I don’t think we can consign anyone’s death to statistical noise, to be frank. We’re looking at this issue. We’re looking to see if we can find the root causes of it. Crime overall is down. Violent crime overall is down. But we have these persistent pockets where we see at times a resurgence in the violent crime rate and the homicide rate as you noted. We are having a convening next week. Thank you for the lead-in, Chuck, it’s much appreciated. We are inviting not just the mayors and police chiefs but also the federal prosecutors of some of the cities that are affected by this to come to Washington and sit down to talk about the trends that they have seen. I previously directed all the US Attorneys in jurisdictions where this was an issue to convene a local gathering and talk with their local law enforcement about what they were seeing on the ground. Is it, for example, a meth problem? Is there an increase in certain types of activity? We also have, sadly…
CT: There is a huge heroin problem. I mean right now, the presidential candidates are hearing about it front and center because New England and New Hampshire, specifically, has this huge heroin issue.
LL: Absolutely. Heroin, and frankly opioids in general, the prescription drug epidemic of a few years ago is really still with us. So I’ve asked the US Attorneys to talk to their local law enforcement. Is that the issue? Is it an issue arising out of gang violence? You know, it’s going to be different for every jurisdiction.
CT: As police have gotten a bad rap this year, do some criminals feel empowered?
LL: Well, I can tell you that when I’ve gone out and talked to police departments, specifically the six departments I’ve been to, and they’ve all talked about the increase in community policing, the steps that they are taking for de-escalation, they’re all in cities where crime has gone down. So, I think, frankly, that police involvement is a helpful thing overall. That’s what we’re seeing.