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Clinton proposes $495 million campaign against juvenile crime

February 19, 1997

BOSTON (AP) _ In a city that has dramatically curbed teen violence, President Clinton proposed a $495 million national campaign against juvenile crime Wednesday. He warned that America ``is going to be living with chaos″ unless the problem is attacked.

The biggest component of Clinton’s two-year program is $200 million for state and local anti-gang prosecution initiatives. It also provides $60 million for 1,000 new after-school programs to keep kids off the streets and $75 million for anti-truancy, school violence and crime intervention.

Proposing to expand the reach of the Brady law, Clinton called for a ban on handgun sales to those 18 or older who had been convicted of a felony as a juvenile.

Fighting juvenile crime ``has got to become our top law enforcement priority,″ Clinton said in a speech in the University of Massachusetts’ gym, where he got a rousing reception.

The president said that 95 percent of America’s largest cities and 88 percent of the smaller cities are plagued by gang crime. The number of people arrested for violent crimes will double by 2010 ``unless we do something about it,″ Clinton said.

``The truth is that Boston and just a few other cities have removed any fig leaf of excuse that we can’t do anything about it,″ Clinton said. ``You have now proved that it can be stopped and therefore there is no excuse for not stopping it.″

Law and order is a politically popular topic, but Republicans and Democrats have clashed over how to combat crime. In 1994, Clinton faced stiff GOP resistance to a sweeping anti-crime bill; Republicans argued he was trying to win money for social programs, such as midnight basketball, under the guise of crime-fighting. The president’s bill was passed and signed into law.

Pointing to the success of Boston’s battle against juvenile violence, Clinton said the message to Congress should be direct: ``Cross all party lines, throw politics away, throw the speeches in the trash can, join hands, let’s do what works and make America the place it has to be.″

Republicans have proposed a $1.5 billion, three-year program against juvenile crime that offers incentives to state and local governments to punish the most dangerous, violent youths as adults. Clinton’s balanced budget proposal contains the money for his program, but Congress has to approve it.

Clinton said there is an urgency to deal with the problem. America’s schools are bulging with 52 million young people, the largest school-age population ever, the president said.

``So we know we’ve got about six years to turn this juvenile crime thing around or our country is going to be living with chaos,″ Clinton said. ``And my successors will not be giving speeches about the wonderful opportunities of the global economy; they’ll be trying to keep body and soul together for people on the streets of these cities.″

With community policing, truancy and noise statues and a crackdown on probation violations, Boston has seen juvenile homicides drop 80 percent from 1990 to 1995. Since July 1995, not a single juvenile has been killed by a gun.

Between 1993 and 1995, the juvenile violent crime arrest rate for aggravated assault and battery with a firearm decreased 65 percent in Boston.

In a footnote to last year’s presidential race, Clinton thanked Massachusetts for giving him the biggest victory margin of any state.

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