I just came from a brief ceremony with Bill Kreeger, head of our intelligence division of the FBI, who's served our country for 29 years. And I told him that it was a great source of pride for me, as President, to thank him for his superb professional competence and his staunch, unbending integrity. In my opinion, that's the characteristic that should exemplify law enforcement officials in local, State, and in the Federal Government. And that's the impression that I have of law enforcement officers.
We have a time of great difficulty in our country. And here in the White House, as President, of course, I have to be primarily concerned about our Nation's security, about defense, about the maintenance of peace. But that responsibility cannot be separated from my own as the chief law enforcement officer of our country, and the preservation of justice, fairness, equity, the control of crime, the enhancement of respect among every citizen of our Nation for our governmental processes. You have very difficult jobs as local police officials, as State officials, as attorneys general, as representatives of the Federal Government in the control of drug traffic, in education, and in administration.
You've got a partner in the Oval Office, and I am here to back you up in the enforcement of the law. I recognize the difficulties that you face in a rapidly changing world. And I know that you've had a full day, specifically concentrating on two types of crime: arson and heroin traffic. Arson is the fastest growing crime, I believe, in the Nation. And we've had some success in controlling heroin. I think, in just recent times, we have cut heroin deaths down approximately 80 percent in our country, but we have a threat of another buildup in heroin supplies coming in from Southwest Asia.
I want to emphasize one other point, and that is the crucial element of close coordination and cooperation and consultation and communication among the different levels of law enforcement officials. When I was Governor, I was quite often disconcerted at the lack of ease of cooperation among the different law enforcement agencies with which I had to deal. Those designed to enforce tax laws, drug laws, and the FBI at the Federal level, the State patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the local police, the local sheriffs, quite often were too preoccupied with the preservation of their own independence and autonomy—and sometimes the protection of their law enforcement turf—and not adequately preoccupied with how they could cooperate with other law enforcement agencies in enforcing the law for exactly the same people.
When a crime is committed, it causes severe loss and it causes personal pain or even death, as you know. And it also causes our societal structure to be weakened. It causes an alienation between the public that we are charged to protect and the public whose lives we are designed and charged with enhancing.
This division, not only among different levels of government but between government and citizens of our Nation, has a farreaching, adverse effect on our Nation's strength. I hope that this session that you've had today, dealing with two specific elements of crime, will be the precursor for others and for a removal of barriers among us and for the realization that you have total support not only from the White House Oval Office, but also from the Attorney General, the FBI, the DEA, and other law enforcement officials and offices and bureaus in the Federal Government.
We want this to be a two-way street, and I hope that you will never hesitate to let us know in Washington how we can help you do a better job at the State and local level.
So, to summarize, let me say I have a deep appreciation for what you are accomplishing, a realization of the difficulties of law enforcement in our societal structure, and I want to let you know that you've got my absolute backing, my absolute support, and my deep desire for a closer coordination and cooperation with you in the future to protect our people and to let the greatest nation on Earth be even greater in the future.
Now I'd like to shake hands with all of you individually, and I'd like to ask the Attorney General to join me. And again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making yourselves partners with me in protecting our people and strengthening our country.
Thank you very much.