Citing two years of surging violence in Charlotte, Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to North Carolina’s largest city to announce a new partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement groups to better coordinate crime-fighting efforts, the Charlotte Observer reports. Sessions said the new violent crime task forces in Charlotte and Pittsburgh would be modeled after the multistate effort that led to the arrests earlier this year of 83 violent gang members in the Carolinas and along the East Coast. Because gang activity already is the priority of the Charlotte FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, the new effort will focus on other types of violent crime, including carjacking, bank robberies, kidnappings and extortion.
“Some people have to be prosecuted,” Sessions said. “I wish it wasn’t so. I wish we had a better solution than jail. But we don’t.” Jake Sussman, a former Charlotte attorney now at Harvard University’s Fair Punishment Project, responded, “The tough-on-crime, racially tinged policies of the 1980s fueled mass incarceration but did not make us safer.” Charlotte and other places have been better served by leaders and policies “focused on understanding and addressing the root causes of crime” and which offer such innovations as alternatives to prosecution and improved care for mental health and substance abuse, Sussman said. Sessions unveiled the Justice Department’s new program for Charlotte before about 75 law enforcement officials at the office of Andrew Murray, the new U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. The attorney general also took the opportunity to defend police, saying, “Police are not the problem. They are the solution to the problem.”