The country’s newest attorney general visited Virginia today. Jeff Sessions was in Richmond speaking with police about violent crime. While murder rates reached an all time low in the state’s capitol a couple years ago, homicides spiked last year.
As Mallory Noe-Payne reports, the attorney general says it’s time to revert back to a tough-on-crime approach.
In front of a room full of police, Jeff Sessions acknowledged that crime rates remain near historic lows in the U.S. But he went on to paint a picture of violence that’s creeping back up amid drug use.
“My fear is that this crime rise is not a blip, but it could be the beginning of a trend. And if we act effectively now we can stop this trend from rising,” he said.
Sessions pointed to Richmond itself as an example of how to crack down.
In the late 1990’s the city pushed forward with a program called Project Exile. Drug offenders were locked up in federal prisons, sometimes for decades, if their crimes involved a gun. The approach didn’t last, and the verdict is still out on how effective it was. It’s been highly criticized though for disproportionately affecting low-income African-Americans.
Taking questions from the press after his speech, Sessions stood by those tactics.
“When you fight crime you have to fight it where it is, and you may have at some point an impact of a racial nature that we hate to see. But if it’s done properly it’s the right thing," Sessions said. "In other words if it’s focused fairly and objectively on dangerous criminals then you’re doing the right thing.”
While the event was invite only, protestors gathered outside. State Delegate Delores McQuinn joined other Virginia Democrats, calling on the attorney general to resign.
"If Jeff Sessions was too racist to serve as a federal judge thirty years ago he is too racist to serve as Attorney General today," she said to the crowd.
Back in the 1980’s Sessions was nominated to be a federal judge, but after allegations of racism he wasn’t confirmed.
Today, Sessions is still in the spotlight. This time for his failure to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador.
"I never considered meeting with the Russian ambassador to be anything improper in any way," Sessions said Wednesday, "We didn't discuss politics or campaigns."
Following his speech and brief press conference, Sessions spent the rest of the day speaking privately with local and state police about combatting violent crime.
He also met with Virginians affected by crime.