[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book I)]
[January 28, 1994]
[Pages 138-140]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to a National Conference of Mayors
January 28, 1994

    Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, all the members of our 
Cabinet who are here, and all those who have been here. I trust they've 
done such a good job that they've taken care of all the heavy lifting. 
    Mayor Abramson, I'm glad to be here with you and all your 
colleagues. And I thank you for coming to the White House and for coming 
to Washington. We need your help. I look out in this crowd today, and I 
see a lot of people with whom I have worked, people I know, people I 
consider my friends, and most importantly people I consider to be 
Americans in the best sense now, trying to come to grips with these 
    This is going to be a good week for me. I long for the days when the 
mayors and the Governors come to town. It is in those days that this 
city is at its least partisan. When we have people who are responsible 
for running things, getting results, dealing with problems that have no 
necessary partisan content, I feel that at least there is a moment of 
hope in the air that we will be able to break out of this crazy 
paralysis that too often dominates this city. And so I am delighted to 
see you all.
    I also want to thank you for the contributions you have made and 
will continue to make to the life and the ideas of this administration. 
I saw the press conference yesterday that Mayor Daley, I think, and 
Mayor Johnson, maybe some others had, on the meltdown of the weapons. I 
received a copy of Mayor Rendell's letter to the Vice President on 
suggestions for an urban agenda, gave the instructions that we should 
review those ideas in a hurry. I've had a lot of talks in the last few 
days with Mayor Archer, Mayor Riley, and Mayor Rice. Mayor Webb has 
talked to me about his efforts.
    I want to say a special word of thanks to Mayor Abramson for the op-
ed piece that he wrote about--I think it was called your Russell 
Project, is that what--because you made the point that I have seen in 
Louisville, in Cleveland, in Chicago, and many other places, that there 
really are things that we can do if we have the right sort of 
partnership. There are ways to use the relatively modest amount of 
Federal money now available to match with local funds and private sector 
funds to really do things to get a lot of our troubled urban areas going 
again. And that was a very important point because there's a lot of 
cynicism about that around this town. And you helped to put a fresh note 
of reality into our discussions, and I appreciate that very much.

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    We're working hard up here to do a number of things, and I won't go 
through all of them. The Cabinet has doubtless discussed them with you. 
I would prefer, if I might, just to talk for a few moments about the 
crime bill. Yesterday I received a letter from the mayors of eight of 
our largest cities--Mayors Giuliani, Daley, Riordan, Rendell, Lanier, 
Archer, White, and Goldsmith--all backing the plan to put another 
100,000 police officers on the street.
    In the days following the quake in Los Angeles, the number of police 
officers on patrol, on actual patrol, was tripled, and crime in Los 
Angeles dropped so much that there were just 50 arrests per day in the 
whole huge city. That's one-tenth, I'll say again, one-tenth the normal 
number of arrests on any given day. In other words, crime dropped by 90 
percent. I want to ask each of you here today, therefore, to help us to 
pass this crime bill and to do it in a timely fashion, to come back here 
with your colleagues without regard to party, and when you can, to bring 
your police chiefs and work for the next 60 days walking a beat in the 
Halls of Congress. You can be the community police for your cities here 
for the next 60 days.
    With the crime bill, we'll get the police. We'll get drug treatment 
for those charged and convicted of crimes. We'll get boot camps for 
first time offenders. We'll get a ban on assault weapons and a number of 
other useful features. Just yesterday, the Vice President went to Dunbar 
High School where the day before there were shootouts in a hallway and 
in front of the school. In too many of our schools, guns have 
transformed the environment from one of learning to one of fear. And I 
looked at the television news last night, and I saw one of the young 
women looking at the Vice President saying, ``If you guys can send a 
person to the Moon, why can't you get guns out of our streets and 
schools?'' Inconveniently, the television switched to another subject 
before I heard his answer. But the young woman certainly asked the right 
    This administration does favor stronger punishment when it's 
appropriate. I do believe in the ``three strikes and you're out'' 
concept for violent criminals. It is clearly true that a small number of 
total criminals commit a large portion of violent crimes. So that is 
something we ought to do. But I think every one of us know, if you've 
ever walked the streets, really walked the streets of the crime-infested 
area, have ever really talked to the people who live there, who ever 
really focused on the fact that most people in the highest crime areas 
of America still obey the law, get up every day and go to work, try to 
raise their kids, try to do the very best they can. What they really 
want is safety in the first place, which means that we have to follow 
strategies that can also prevent crime, and we have to bring hope back 
to those places. We have to support the families and rebuild the 
communities and give people work.
    I know of no example where you have a successful civilized society 
without strong elements of work, family, and community. And when all 
three break down at once, it should not be surprising to anyone that the 
vacuum created leads to crime and gangs and guns. So we have a lot of 
work to do.
    Our community empowerment agenda is the beginning of that work, and 
it can lead to a lot more projects like the one that Mayor Abramson 
discussed in his fine op-ed piece. But let me say for now, if you want 
me to be able to go out across this country and tell the American people 
they need to take more responsibility for their children and their 
neighborhoods and their communities, to try to help you to mobilize the 
support of the private sector to invest in the empowerment zones and 
take advantage of other opportunities in cities, the first thing we have 
to do is to do our part by passing a good crime bill and by doing it in 
a timely fashion. When I discussed this with some of you recently, one 
of the things you wanted to do is to make sure that if we said that bill 
would fund 100,000 policemen, that it would in fact do that on the terms 
as advertised. I think you need to make sure that's going to happen.
    Another thing we discussed is to make sure that we had some 
initiatives which would also provide incentives for people to avoid 
crime or young people to turn away from crime. We need to experiment 
with things to see what actually lowers the crime rate. We know for sure 
that more people on patrol lowers the crime rate. I mean, Los Angeles 
just taught us that one more time. And we know there are some other 
things that do as well.
    So, as you come up here to lobby, I ask you to give us the benefit 
of your ideas, your experience, and make sure we get the best possible 
bill. But the main thing is, we do not

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need to fool around with this for 6 months. I mean, there's already been 
a crime bill passed the Senate; there's already been a number of bills 
passed the House. We know now how we're going to pay for this and within 
range how much money we can spend on it, and we have it paid for. And 
our administration's budget, tight though it is, actually provides the 
funding for it. So let's do it, and let's do it with the benefit of the 
mayors and the chiefs of police who know what it is to do it right.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:57 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to the following mayors: Jerry 
Abramson of Louisville, KY; Richard Daley of Chicago, IL; Paul Johnson 
of Phoenix, AZ; Edward Rendell of Philadelphia, PA; Dennis W. Archer of 
Detroit, MI; Joseph P. Riley, Jr. of Charleston, SC; Norman B. Rice of 
Seattle, WA; Wellington E. Webb of Denver, CO; Rudolph W. Giuliani of 
New York City; Richard Riordan of Los Angeles; Bob Lanier of Houston, 
TX; Michael White of Cleveland, OH; and Stephen Goldsmith of 
Indianapolis, IN.