President Biden on Friday will push cities to use federal stimulus money to hire more cops — while touting the use of at least $10 billion in stimulus funds for public safety, the White House said in a preview of his remarks.
Biden is seeking to position himself as a champion of policing ahead of the midterm elections in November as polls find broad disapproval of his handling of crime. But he also risks alienating left-wing Democrats who favor slashing police.
A Biden administration official told reporters that the president will implore local officials to consider giving police a greater share of the $350 billion in state and local government funds that Democrats approved last year as part of a larger $1.9 trillion package. Those funds are still being disbursed.
“We still think that a lot of places still have some flexibility in how they spend and that it is worth pressing them, even if they’ve made certain budget plans, to ask themselves again, is there more they can be doing in the preparation this summer for violence prevention and public safety?” the official said.
An increase in crime is dragging on Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, along with public anger at four-decade-high inflation and frustration with the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and record-breaking illegal immigration. Biden is attempting to prevent Republicans from retaking Congress, but his own approval rating has remained low since the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.
Officials on a White House-organized call signaled that Biden intends to try to cast Republicans as less pro-police than Democrats because they didn’t support the massive stimulus bill — though Biden didn’t stress that cities should use the law’s funds for policing until months after it passed.
“Let’s consider what Republicans are doing when it comes to making our communities safer. Congressional Republicans voted unanimously in Congress against every cent of the $10 billion that’s now being used by over 300 communities to put more cops on the beat and invest in neighborhood-based crime prevention programs,” an administration official said.
Violent crime remains elevated in major cities this year after surging in the second half of 2020 and in 2021.
In New York City, robberies are up 44.5 percent this year compared to the same point in 2021. Rapes are up 12 percent this year and car thefts are up 61.3 percent — with 4,467 cars stolen in the city in just over five months. Murders are down 13.8 percent from last year but are still up 20 percent from 2020.
In Washington, DC, violent crime is up 22 percent this year, driven by a 50 percent spike in robberies. Property crime is also up, including a 7 percent bump in car thefts, of which there have been 1,160 — including the unsolved carjacking of Dr. Rakesh Patel, 33, who in March was fatally run over by a person stealing his car.
A poll released last month by CBS found that 61 percent of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of crime, versus 39 percent who approve. That poll found that 49 percent favor greater funding for the police, 61 percent want stricter punishments for criminals and 63 percent want more mental health services.
The same poll identified 63 percent disapproval of Biden’s handling of the economy, 62 percent disapproval of his handling of immigration and 55 percent disapproval of his handling of the US response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.