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Radio Address About the State of the Union Message on Law Enforcement and Drug Abuse Prevention

March 10, 1973

Good afternoon:

Nothing is so precious to Americans as the freedoms provided in our Constitution. In order that these freedoms may be enjoyed to their fullest, there must be another freedom--freedom from the fear of crime.

The senseless shooting of Senator John Stennis in January gave tragic emphasis to the fact that there is still a high risk of crime on our Nation's streets. These acts of violence are the natural residue of an atmosphere in America that for years encouraged potential lawbreakers.

Americans in the last decade were often told that the criminal was not responsible for his crimes against society, but that society was responsible.

I totally disagree with this permissive philosophy. Society is guilty of crime only when we fail to bring the criminal to justice. When we fail to make the criminal pay for his crime, we encourage him to think that crime will pay.

Such an attitude will never be reflected in the laws supported by this Administration, nor in the manner in which we enforce those laws. The jurisdiction of the Federal Government over crime is limited, but where we can act, we will act to make sure that we have the laws, the enforcement agencies, the courts, the judges, the penalties, the correctional institutions, and the rehabilitation programs we need to do the job.

Next week I will propose a revision of the entire Federal Criminal Code, modernizing it and strengthening it, to close the loopholes and tailor our laws to present day needs. When I say "modernize," incidentally, I do not mean to be soft on crime; I mean exactly the opposite.

Our new Code will give us tougher penalties and stronger weapons in the war against dangerous drugs and organized crime. It will rationalize the present patchwork quilt of punishments for crime. It will substantially raise current limits on monetary fines. And it will restrict the present absurd use of the insanity defense.

I am further proposing that the death penalty be restored for certain Federal crimes. At my direction, the Attorney General has drafted a statute consistent with the Supreme Court's recent decision on the death penalty. This statute will provide capital punishment for cases of murder over which the Federal Government has jurisdiction, and for treason and other war-related crimes.

Contrary to the views of some social theorists, I am convinced that the death penalty can be an effective deterrent against specific crimes. The death penalty is not a deterrent so long as there is doubt whether it can be applied. The law I will propose would remove this doubt.

The potential criminal will know that if his intended victims die, he may also die. The hijacker, the kidnaper, the man who throws a firebomb, the convict who attacks a prison guard, the person who assaults an officer of the law--all will know that they may pay with their own lives for any lives that they take.

This statute will be a part of my proposed reform of the Federal Criminal Code. However, because there is an immediate need for this sanction, I have directed the Attorney General to submit a death penalty statute as a separate proposal so that the Congress can act rapidly on this single provision.

Drug abuse is still public enemy number one in America. Let me tell you about some of the tragic letters I have received at the White House from victims of drugs.

One tells about a 5-year-old boy hospitalized in Missouri. Someone gave him LSD.

One is from a boy 18 years old who had spent 11 months in a mental hospital trying to get rid of his drug addiction. He started with marijuana. He is asking me for help because his 14-year-old brother has begun to use drugs.

Another is from a mother in California. Her son committed suicide. He could not end his drug habit, so he ended his life.

One of the things that comes through so forcefully in these letters is the sense of despair of people who feel they have no place to turn for help, and so they write to the White House. I intend to help them.

We have already made encouraging progress in the war against drug abuse. Now we must consolidate that progress and strike even harder.

One area in which I am convinced of the need for more immediate action is that of putting heroin pushers in prison and keeping them there. A recent study by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs revealed that more than 70 percent of those accused of being narcotics violators are freed on bail for a period of 3 months to I year between the time of arrest and the time of trial. They are thus given the opportunity to go out and create more misery, generate more violence, commit more crimes while they are waiting to be tried for these same activities.

The same study showed that over 25 percent of the federally convicted narcotics violators were not even sentenced to jail. When permissive judges are more considerate of the pusher than they are of his victims, there is little incentive for heroin pushers to obey the law, and great incentive for them to violate it. This is an outrage. It is a danger to every law-abiding citizen, and I am confident that the vast majority of Americans will support immediate passage of the heroin trafficking legislation I will propose to the Congress next week.

This legislation will require Federal judges to consider the danger to the community before freeing on bail a suspect for heroin trafficking. That is something they cannot legally do now. It will require a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison for anyone convicted of selling heroin. It will require a minimum sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment for major traffickers in drugs. And for offenders with a prior conviction for a drug felony, those who persist in living off the suffering of others, it will require life imprisonment without parole.

This is tough legislation, but we must settle for nothing less. The time has come for soft-headed judges and probation officers to show as much concern for the rights of innocent victims of crime as they do for the rights of convicted criminals.

In recent days, there have been proposals to legalize the possession and the use of marijuana. I oppose the legalization of the sale, possession, or use of marijuana. The line against the use of dangerous drugs is now drawn on this side of marijuana. If we move the line to the other side and accept the use of this drug, how can we draw the line against other illegal drugs? Or will we slide into an acceptance of their use as well?

My Administration has carefully weighed this matter. We have examined the statutes. We have taken the lead in making sanctions against the use of marijuana more uniform, more reasonable. Previously, these sanctions were often unrealistically harsh. Today, 35 States have adopted our model statute on drugs, including marijuana. I hope others will.

But there must continue to be criminal sanctions against the possession, sale, or use of marijuana.

Law enforcement alone will not eliminate drug abuse. We must also have a strong program to treat and assist the addict. Two-thirds of my proposed antinarcotics budget goes for treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, and research. We are approaching the point where no addict will be able to say that he commits crimes because there is no treatment available for him.

By providing drug offenders with every possible opportunity to get out of the drug culture, we need feel no compunction about applying the most stringent sanctions against those who commit crimes in order to feed their habits.

The crimes which affect most people most often are not those under Federal jurisdiction, but those in which State and local governments have jurisdiction. But while the Federal Government does not have full jurisdiction in the field of criminal law enforcement, it does have a broad, constitutional responsibility to insure domestic tranquillity. That is why I am doing everything I can to help strengthen the capacity of State and local governments to fight crime.

Since I took office, Federal assistance for State and local law enforcement authorities has grown from over $100 million to over $i billion. We are training over 40,000 local law enforcement officers in the control and prevention of drug abuse.

This year more than 1,200 State and local police officers will graduate from the new FBI Academy, and I plan to increase assistance next year to local law enforcement to over $ 1,200 million.

Crime costs Americans twice. It costs first in lives lost, in injuries, in property loss, in increased insurance rates, in being fearful for your own safety as you go about your work.

And second, crime costs in the taxes that go to maintain police forces, courts, jails, other means of enforcement.

It is a breach of faith with those who are paying the cost of crime, human as well as financial, to be lenient with the criminal. There are those who say that law and order are just code words for repression and bigotry. That is dangerous nonsense. Law and order are code words for goodness and decency in America.

Crime is color blind. Let those who doubt this talk to the poor, the minorities, the inner-city dwellers, who are the most frequent victims of crime. There is nothing disgraceful, nothing to be ashamed of, about Americans wanting to live in a law-abiding country.

I intend to do everything in my power to see that the American people get all the law and order they are paying for. Our progress in this effort has been encouraging. The latest FBI figures show that for the first 9 months of 1972, the growth rate of serious crime in America was reduced to 1 percent. That is the lowest rate of increase since 1960.

In 83 of our major cities, serious crime has actually been reduced, and in the District of Columbia it has been cut in half since 1969. Convictions for organized crime have more than doubled in the last 4 years. The rate of new heroin addiction has dramatically decreased.

These are the positive results of refusing to compromise with the forces of crime, refusing to accept the notion that lawlessness is inevitable in America. We have the freedom to choose the kind of nation we want, and we do not choose to live with crime.

The Federal Government can help provide resources. It can help provide leadership. It can act with its own jurisdiction. But in the end, one of the best resources we have, one of the greatest safeguards to public peace, is the active concern of the law-abiding American citizen. The war against crime is not just the job of the FBI and the State and local police; it is your job, everybody's job. It is the very essence of good citizenship to act when and where we see crime being committed.

Citizens in some high crime areas have gathered together to work with the police to protect lives and property, to prevent crime. They have recognized the simple fact that we are going to have a crime problem as long as we are willing to put up with it, and most Americans are not willing to put up with it any longer.

When I saw and heard the remarks of our returning prisoners of war, so strong and confident and proud, I realized that we were seeing men of tough moral fiber, men who reflected, despite their long absence from America, what America is all about.

Just as they are returning home to America, I believe that today we see America returning to the basic truths that have made us and kept us a strong and a free people. I am encouraged by that vision. It points the way toward a better, safer future for all Americans. It points the way to an America in which men and women and children can truly live free from fear in the full enjoyment of their most basic rights.

To accept anything less than a nation free from crime is to be satisfied with something less than America can be and ought to be for all our people.

Thank you and good afternoon.

Note: The President's address was recorded for broadcast at 12:30 p.m. on nationwide radio.

Richard Nixon, Radio Address About the State of the Union Message on Law Enforcement and Drug Abuse Prevention Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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