Rising violence among youths appears to have contributed to a nationwide crime spike, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said today, the Associated Press reports. Gangs and gun violence are partly to blame for a rise in crime that is on pace to increase for the second straight year, said Gonzales. The Justice Department is pledging to spend nearly $50 million this year to combat gangs and guns–a modest sum by Washington standards–and will push Congress to enact laws to let the federal government better investigate and prosecute violent crime.
Gonzales said a growing number of offenders appear to be younger, and their crimes more violent, and that laws in some states provide few, if any, tough penalties on juvenile offenders. He said many youths have little parental oversight and are too easily influenced by gang membership and glamorized violence in popular culture. “Loosely organized gangs” are difficult to investigate and their members often commit random acts of crime out of self-protection, he said. Justice plans to distribute $18 million in grants nationwide to prevent and reduce illegal gun sales and other firearms crimes. Gonzales also announced spending $31 million in new funds this year to combat gangs. The department is working on a new crime bill to help federal authorities assist local and state police in cases involving juvenile crime.