One-on-One: Biden senior advisor Cedric Richmond discusses the president’s anti-crime plan

Cities encouraged to use some of their COVID-19 funds for policing and crime reduction programs.
Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 9:58 PM CDT
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Biden Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond discusses details of the president's anti-crime plan that...
Biden Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond discusses details of the president's anti-crime plan that targets gun violence.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The soaring gun violence has the White House’s attention. President Joe Biden announced an anti-crime plan that will target what his administration calls “rogue gun dealers.”

FOX 8 spoke one-on-one with Biden senior advisor Cedric Richmond, who resigned from representing the New Orleans area in the Congress to join the president’s administration.

“What we’re seeing over the last 18 months is crime is down but violent crime and homicides are up and so we want to make sure that we address it and we do it in a comprehensive manner,” said Richmond.

Richmond said a big focus will be getting guns out of the wrong hands and gun dealers will be held accountable for not following gun sale laws.

“First of all, we’re going to use ATF to go after those gun dealers that are flooding the streets and selling guns to people who they know should not have them; two, we’re going to help with tracing the guns that are used in crimes with local municipalities. And with the funding that we have will allow local police departments to increase technologies,” said Richmond.

Under Biden’s plan, communities experiencing a surge in gun violence as a result of the pandemic will be able to use American Rescue Plan funds to hire more police officers, and for prosecuting gun traffickers and non-law-abiding gun suppliers.

“The ability to replenish your police force and hire officers and what’s really important is the community violence intervention funding and we know that community violence intervention programs work. They reduce the number of murders in cities,” said Richmond.

Gun violence is a national problem.

The White House says the number of homicides in the first quarter of 2021 was 24% higher than the number of homicides in the first quarter of 2020, and 49% higher than in the first quarter of 2019.

Peter Scharf, Ed.D., is an LSU Health criminologist. He pointed to New Orleans’ high murder rate and related gun violence.

“Ours are over 80%, our murder surge since 2019, our shootings are up 104%. the carjackings are up over 200%, so absolutely in need of this occurring; without these resources I don’t know how we dig out of this,” said Scharf.

Scharf applauds the White House’s efforts but questions whether it will be enough money to handle the problem.

“Money is out there, the cities will, you know, benefit greatly from this. It will give some resources, probably not enough to do it,” said Scharf.

Richmond was asked about such criticism.

“It’s the largest funding, especially the $5 billion that we’ve requested in the federal budget for community violence intervention,” said Richmond. “It’s the largest amount of funding they ever had in the history of the United States and so we think that it is a very good start and we’re going to see how it goes but look, we are all in, in terms of violence prevention.”

Additionally, the Biden Administration will help businesses take advantage of federal tax credits to hire formerly incarcerated people.

Norris Henderson is a prison reform advocate. Henderson spent 27 years in a Louisiana prison for a crime he says he did not commit.

“And if the person couldn’t have access or housing or gainful employment, you are kind of like pushing him right back into this underground economy,” said Henderson.

He believes it will also deter crime.

“Everybody’s got their help-wanted signs up. How many formerly incarcerated people applying for those jobs that are still getting denied,” Henderson said.

Richmond agrees.

“Critically important and what we don’t want it to be is a self-fulfilling prophecy where people can’t get a job, people find themselves right back in the same predicament they were in before they found themselves incarcerated and so we want to stop it early; we can do it by investment, we can do it by education, we can do it by policing smarter,” said Richmond.

Communities can also use federal funds for summer programs for kids.

“And then we want to do things to prevent things from getting involved in crime in the first place and that is summer jobs programs for youth, money for recreational departments, however, cities see fit to invest that money that money on the front end,” said Richmond.

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