U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions touts violent crime fight in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions left behind the tumult of the nation’s capital, figuratively turning itself inside-out trying to determine the name of an anonymous opponent inside the White House of President Donald Trump, for the friendlier confines of an Indianapolis conference center and a gathering of police officers from across the state of Indiana.

“And let me say this loud and clear, President Trump and I are proud to stand with you,” Sessions told the 2018 Fall Indiana Law Enforcement Conference, dropping the name of the boss who has reportedly doubted his attorney general’s mental capabilities and derided his southern origins in private.

Sessions recalled his last visit to Indianapolis in late 2017 when he was the guest of Ten Point Coalition before honoring a pair of Indiana lawman who died in the line of duty this year, Deputy Jacob Pickett of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office and Officer Rob Pitts of the Terre Haute Police Department.

A year ago, Sessions announced the re-launch of Project Safe Neighborhoods which pairs up federal agents and assistant U.S. Attorneys with local police and prosecutors to investigate violent crime and bring federal charges against suspects.

“Project Safe Neighborhoods is built on experience. We have reports that prove it reduced crime in its previous iteration and we’re confident it will do so again,” said Sessions. “Public data from 88 large cities that we have just gotten in…suggests that violent crime went down in the first quarter of 2018, compared to the first quarter of 2017, violent crime went down 6.8 percent and murder was going down in 2018  by 5.5 percent.”

In Indianapolis, both murders and non-fatal shootings are up approximately 10 percent and poised to set new annual records again.

“Our priorities are drug dealers with guns, felons with guns, people that commit robberies with guns, firearms are the focus,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Josh Minkler who has added five additional assistant U.S. Attorneys under Project Safe Neighborhoods. “I’m very confident by the end of this year we will see a reduced amount of gun violence. I’m very confident that in 2019 it’ll go down more. We’ll hit that tipping point. The word will get out, crime will be deterred, gun violence will go down and the number of gun homicides will go down in Marion County.

“The word is getting out in the neighborhoods, we listen to the jail calls, and the jails calls, they are talking about the feds are in the neighborhoods. ‘Don’t pick up a gun because if the feds come and get you, it’s serious time.’”

IMPD Northwest District Commander Lorenzo Lewis said improved cooperation, the sharing of data, the strategizing of investigations and the exploration of federal charges and prosecution have combined to drive crime down in that part of Indianapolis.

“I know on Northwest District our crime rate for our (most violent) crimes has decreased a year to date by 13 percent,” said Lewis. “I know recently we were able to arrest an individual who was doing a lot of robberies based on those connections. We were able to connect some burglary suspects based on those connections.”

“If we follow this policy, whatever the crime rate might be in the future, it’ll be lower than it might have otherwise,” promised Sessions. “Both the violent crime rate and the homicide rates, instead of rising, are beginning to go back down.”

Sessions began his day in Indianapolis with a visit to the local headquarters of the FBI hosted by Special Agent in Charge Grant Mendenhall followed by a casual lunch with Minkler and the address to more than 500 Hoosier law enforcement officers.

While the controversy in Washington brought on by revelations from inside the White House about Trump’s fitness and temperament for the job and the president’s own attacks on the Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutor into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election were not broached publicly, Minkler said in private Sessions remained steadfast in his commitment to law enforcement, his lawyers and investigators and U.S. Attorneys.

“He’s proud of the Department of Justice, he’s proud of the work we do, I’m proud of the work he does and he’s proud of the work our state and local law enforcement partners do every day,” said Minkler.