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Biden Touts Crime Record as Laken Riley Case Dominates Conservative Media TIME

President Biden Speaks On Safer Communities

President Biden pushed back Wednesday against Republican claims of a country gripped by a surge in violent crime, pointing to stats that show a decrease in crime since he took office, and claiming his policies have helped to reduce the rates of murder and other crimes that rose during the pandemic.

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In 2023, rates for murder, battery, assault, burglary, property crime and theft “all dropped sharply,” Biden said, speaking to police chiefs and administration officials gathered in the White House State Dining room for a meeting about crime reduction.

“That matters, as President, public safety and crime reduction is a top priority,” Biden said.

Biden’s remarks come as the killing of nursing student Laken Riley on the University of Georgia campus last week dominates conservative media. A Venezuelan immigrant who had entered the country illegally faces murder and other charges in the case. 

The case has become a flashpoint in the immigration debate as the issue rises this month to the top problem facing the U.S., according to national polling of Americans by Gallup, overtaking the government and the economy. “Laken Riley was a spectacular young woman whose life was taken from us, and her great family, by a savage monster who should not have been in our Country,” Trump wrote on social media on Tuesday. “We must rid ourselves of this ridiculous Open Border, right now.”

Both Trump and Biden are set to travel to Texas on Thursday to visit the U.S. border with Mexico. Biden will travel to Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley to bring attention to his demand that Congress fund more border patrol agents and immigration asylum officers. Trump is scheduled to appear about 300 miles away in Eagle Pass to highlight his plans to crack down on legal and illegal immigration if voters return him to office.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked Wednesday if President Biden had spoken to the family of Laken Riley. Jean-Pierre would not confirm whether or not such a call had taken place and referred questions about the case to local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I do want to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Laken Hope Riley,” Jean-Pierre said. “It is heartbreaking. I can’t even imagine what the family is going through.”

Biden’s remarks at on Wednesday, which were added to his public schedule just hours before he spoke, provided a pointed response to a Republican refrain that his policies have made cities less safe and allowed large numbers of immigrants with criminal records to remain in the country.

Homicides in 2023 are estimated to be down nationwide by 12% from the previous year, according to the White House. Biden credited that drop in part on $15 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan that went to police departments to add officers and increase community policing and mental health intervention programs. That bill passed in 2021 with no Republican votes, Biden noted.

The funding from the American Rescue Plan has been a “complete game changer” for police in Detroit, said Detroit police chief James White, who introduced Biden. White said homicides declined 18% from 2022 to 2023, to the lowest level since 1966, a shift that can be attributed in part to that funding for new training and mental health responder programs for police in the city. “We still have too many guns in our community, too much violent crime,” White said.  

While conservative media routinely reports on crime in American cities and blames liberal policies, reported crime rates are often higher in states that vote consistently for Republicans. The murder rate in red states in 2022 was 33% higher than in blue states for that year, according to a report by the nonpartisan think tank Third Way that analyzed 2021 and 2022 homicide data from Center of Disease Control’s mortality statistics. It was the 23rd consecutive year that states that the Republican presidential candidate won had higher murder rates than those won by the Democratic candidate, Third Way found. Of the ten states with the highest murder rates in 2022, eight of those states voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Brian Bennett

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