[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)] [September 19, 1995] [Pages 1379-1382] [From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]
Remarks to the Community in Jacksonville, Florida September 19, 1995 Thank you so much. Wow! Sheriff Glover, I don't ever want to be on the ballot against you. I'm glad to be here. Thank you, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, for your friendship and your support, and thank you for your support of the crime bill, which has made our streets safer and made the children's future here more secure. Thank you, Governor Chiles, for being my friend and adviser and for your leadership. And thank you, Lieutenant Governor MacKay, for your long support and your leadership here. Mayor Delaney, we are delighted to be here in this great and growing community. I want to thank you and the State's attorney, Harry Shorstein, and all the other local officials here. And I want to say, as President, it's a particular honor for me to be here in Jacksonville not only because this is a vibrant, growing city that did get a professional football team--[applause]. Don't be discouraged by the rough starts. I've had a lot of rough starts in my life. The opera is not over. I want to also say a special word of thanks to the people of Jacksonville for the remarkable contribution that has been made by this community over so many years to the national defense of the United States. We are grateful for that, and we continue to be grateful for that. I want to say a special word of appreciation, too, to Florida's own, our Attorney General, Janet Reno, for the wonderful job that she has done as the Attorney General of the United States. And the Director of our COPS program, who is also here on my far left, Joe Brann, from California, who has come to Washington as a chief of police to work with us to get these police officers out in the United States. I thank them for being here, and I thank them for their leadership. I want to thank all the schools that are represented here. I have a list. I may miss some, but I think we're joined by Kite Elementary School, Lake Forest Elementary, Moncrease Elementary, Ribalt Middle School, Raines and Ribalt High School, and the Edward Waters College choir, thank you. I'd also like to thank one more person, Police Officer Larisa Crenshaw, who walked down the street with me today, because she and these other officers in uniform behind me, they're what we're here to talk about. I thank her, and I thank these people for being willing to serve your community in law enforcement. You know, when I ran for President in 1992, I had a vision of what I wanted America to look like as we enter the 21st century. I want this to be a high-opportunity country for all Americans, where entrepreneurs can flourish, where people who work hard can be in the middle class, where we shrink the under class and give everybody who is willing to do what [[Page 1380]] it takes to make the most of their own lives a chance to do it. I wanted us to have strong families and strong communities with good education systems, good health care, a clean environment. But I knew that in order to do that we first had to tackle the problems of crime and drugs. Without safe streets, safe schools, and safe homes, America will never be what it ought to be. We've worked hard for the last 2\1/2\ years to bring the deficit down, to invest more in education, to deal with all of these issues I talked about. And we've got more jobs and less crime in America than we had 2\1/2\ years ago. And I think that's pretty good evidence that our strategy is working to move this country forward. On the issue of crime, I was astonished when I got to Washington, having been a Governor for 12 years--if there was one issue that had nothing to do with partisan politics all my life, it was crime. I never met a Republican or a Democrat that wanted to be a victim of crime. I couldn't imagine that there would ever be any partisan issue there. When I was a Governor, when I was attorney general, we all worked together on issues affecting public safety. And I can see that's what you do here in Jacksonville. When I got to Washington, I discovered that even though the violent crime rate had tripled from the 1960's to the 1990's, they had been fighting partisan battles over the crime bill for 6 long years--hot air in Washington, more crime on the streets. In 1994, we ended the hot air and the partisan bickering and passed the crime bill, and crime is going down on the streets of America. The crime bill featured more police, helped the States to build more prisons, stronger punishment for people who deserve it but also more prevention to give our young people something to say yes to as well as something to say no to, the chance to avoid getting into trouble in the first place. We made ``three strikes and you're out'' the law of the land. What that means is that people who are serious career criminals now will go to jail for the rest of their careers so they can't get out and continue to do violence and to victimize people. We banned deadly assault weapons from our streets and from our schools, while protecting hundreds of sporting weapons for law-abiding hunters and sports men and women in this country. It was a good balance and the right one to strike. We created an office to combat the problems of violence against women, in the home and on the street, a special problem in the United States and one the First Lady talked about when she went to China and represented us so well there just a few days ago. The most important thing we did was to give the communities of this country the ability to hire 100,000 police officers to do what these 31 police officers behind me are going to do, to walk up and down the streets of America, like Marvin Street, to talk to neighbors, to talk to people, to get them involved in keeping their communities safe and free of crime. We give the communities the resources they need to put the police officers on the street, and people like Sheriff Glover all over America take responsibility to train and deploy those officers. Then the officers help ordinary citizens, like the folks I just visited with, walking up and down the street, to find the commitment to do their part in fighting against crime. If we're going to make our streets safe, if we're going to do what we have to do to give our children a chance at a future, we have got to have the help of grassroots citizens who are willing to work with police officers. If we can get them on the streets, you've got to help them do their jobs. In the 6 months since community police officers started patrolling this neighborhood, in 6 months, violent and property crimes have dropped by more than 8 percent in just 6 months. And they're just beginning. What I want you to know is that, just like Sheriff Glover said that Jacksonville could do anything, America can do this. We do not have to put up with the high rates of crime we have. We do not have to put up with the high rates of drug abuse among our children we have. We can do something about it. You have evidence on this street, in this neighborhood. We can do something about it. All over America today, the crime rate is down, the murder rate is down. We see people making progress to take control of their own lives, their families, their neighborhoods, their schools, and get this country going in the right direction. But let me tell you, there are also troubling signs on the horizon. And I'll just give you two. While drug use is down among people between the ages of 18 and 34, casual drug use, marijuana, among teenagers is going back up again. While the crime rate is down all over America [[Page 1381]] and the murder rate is down, violent crime among teenagers is going up again. The Justice Department issued a report the other day which showed that while the overall crime rate is down, violent crime among juveniles is going up, and a majority of members of gangs say that they think they are justified in shooting someone who treats them with disrespect. We actually had a case in another city not very long ago where a 16-year- old boy shot a 12-year-old boy who was sort of the neighborhood comic. And he thought the 12-year-old boy was treating him with disrespect. Whatever happened to ``Count to 10 before you do something you might later regret''? Whatever happened to kids being taught that sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you? Whatever happened to people defining self-respect based on what they believe about themselves, not what somebody else says about them? Shoot, if the President followed that rule, he wouldn't have any respect. [Laughter] You think about it. It's a big problem. Look at what happened in Los Angeles over the weekend. A family took one wrong turn and because they were in the wrong place, gang members felt they had the right to shoot at them and take their lives, kill an innocent child. So what I want to tell you is, this is a moment of great hope. We know we can lower the crime rate. We know we can lower the murder rate. We know we can reduce drug abuse and drug dealing in our neighborhood. We know we can take our streets back. We know how to do it. Your sheriff has proved that he can do it, working with you, if you will help him. We know how to do this. This is one of the most important things that has happened to America in the last 20 years. We don't believe we are helpless in the face of crime anymore. We know we can turn it around. But we also know that the job is not yet done. Therefore, to go back to what the Congresswoman said at the beginning, we fought through one partisan political battle to get this crime bill. I heard people say on the floor of Congress that the crime bill was a fraud, that it wouldn't help to lower the crime rate, that we would never get 20,000 police on the street in 6 years, and we were promising 100,000 in 6 years. Well, in one year, we're over 25,000, and we're going to make it on time, ahead of the budget, ahead of the schedule. And we now have a consensus among the American people. I believe that we ought to keep on lowering the crime rate. I don't believe--I haven't heard the first person write me a letter and say, ``Dear Mr. President, I don't like the fact that the crime rate is going down. Please stop what you're doing.'' [Laughter] I haven't gotten one letter saying that. Now, in Washington the Congress is trying to balance the budget. I support that. We ought to balance the budget. We never had a permanent deficit until the 12 years before I became President. We have taken the deficit from $290 billion a year when I took office to $160 billion this year, more than 40 percent reduction. And I want to finish the job. We can balance the budget, and we should. But what I want to tell you is, we do not have to destroy our commitment to the education of our young people, to the training of unemployed people, to the economic future of America. We do not have to have dramatic increases in the health care costs of elderly people when 75 percent of them are living on less than $24,000 a year. We do not have to sacrifice the environmental and public health and safety protections that give us clean air, clean water, and safe food. We do not have to do any of this to balance the budget. I have given the Congress a balanced budget plan which does not do any of these things. And we certainly, we certainly do not have to come off of our commitment to put 100,000 police officers on the street and have more and more stories like the ones I heard walking up and down Marvin Street today. We owe it to America to balance the budget and to reduce the crime rate until Americans are safe in their streets, safe in their homes, safe in their schools. So I ask you, because you are fortunate enough to live in this growing and vibrant community, because you are fortunate enough to have elected leaders that work together across party lines and know that crime is an American problem and a human problem, because you are fortunate enough to have a sheriff who has proved to you that community policing works, because you are fortunate enough to have experienced a drop in the crime rate, I ask you to join with me and say to the United States Congress, this is not about partisan politics. We are lowering the crime rate in America. If we have more jobs and lower crime, America is [[Page 1382]] going to be a better place. So let's continue to do that. Let's continue to do that. And let us say: Balance the budget, yes. But do it and still send us our police officers, because we want our children to have a healthy, safe, strong, drug-free, crime-free, violence-free future. And now we know we can do it. Let's don't stop. Let's keep on until the job's done. Thank you, and God bless you all. Note: The President spoke at 9:47 a.m. at the Carvill Park Community Center. In his remarks, he referred to Sheriff Nathaniel Glover of Duval County; Gov. Lawton Chiles and Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay of Florida; Mayor John A. Delaney of Jacksonville; and Joseph Brann, Director, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Department of Justice.