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Biden Sees ‘Clear Message’ to Fight Crime After California Vote

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden called on state and local governments to spend more money fighting crime and gun violence after voters on Tuesday “sent a clear message” about their public-safety concerns, including in California Democratic primaries.

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“It’s time the states and the localities spend the money they have to deal with crime, as well as retrain police officers, as well as provide for more community policing,” Biden told reporters Wednesday before traveling to Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas.

“It’s time to get on with doing that, and that’s what I think the message last night from the American public was,” Biden added.

Voters in San Francisco on Tuesday recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who came to office pledging progressive reforms of the criminal justice system even as crime spiked in the city. In Los Angeles, unease over homelessness helped propel billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso into a runoff against Representative Karen Bass to be the city’s next mayor.

Biden told reporters that his 2021 pandemic recovery legislation included “billions of dollars” intended to hire police officers and reform police departments. But “very few have done it,” he said.

Republicans’ Message

Biden’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, later referred to his statement when asked specifically whether the president had validated Boudin’s recall and Republican narratives about increasing crime.

“The voters last night delivered a clear message: It’s time for both parties to get more serious about fighting crime and gun violence,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One.

The American Rescue Plan provided some $350 billion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments to plug expected tax-revenue declines during the pandemic.

Republicans have seized on surging post-pandemic crime rates ahead of November’s midterm elections, and a Gallup poll conducted in March found that 53% of Americans say they worry about crime and violence a “great deal.” That’s the highest level since 2016.

The president added that he believed “both parties have to step up” on the issue, including to address gun violence.

A bipartisan group of senators is seeking to craft a limited gun-control package after a spate of high-profile mass shootings, including a massacre last month at an elementary school in Texas. But the effort is struggling to gather the 10 Republican votes necessary to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Biden met with Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat leading the negotiations, Tuesday at the White House.

(Updates with Karine Jean-Pierre remarks beginning in sixth paragraph)

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