Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Law Enforcement and Crime

July 07, 1984

My fellow Americans:

I'd like to talk with you today about a subject that's been a priority since this administration's first day in office—fighting crime in America.

When we came to office, crime was taking the lives of over 23,000 Americans a year. It touched a third of American homes and resulted in about $10 billion a year in financial losses. Yet, just as America has regained her economic strength and international prestige in the last few years, so, too, the crime problem in America has shown improvement for the first time in many years.

In recent speeches in Hartford, Connecticut, and San Antonio, Texas, I've pointed out that the 7-percent decrease in crime reported for last year is the sharpest decrease in the history of the crime statistics, and it marks the first time the serious crime index has shown a decline 2 years in a row. Of course we still have a long way to go; but this statistic does demonstrate that our efforts and those of State and local governments are finally having an impact on crime.

At the State level, for example, numerous legislatures have passed tough new sentencing laws. And here at the Federal level, we've taken several critically important steps.

First, from our first day in office, the Attorney General and I have emphasized the importance of appointing to the Federal bench, including the Supreme Court, judges determined to uphold the rights of society and the innocent victims as well as the rights of the accused.

Second, we've launched an all-out assault on the illicit drug trade—that fever swamp of career criminals in America. Taking our cue from the success of our South Florida Task Force, we've brought aboard more than 1,200 new investigators and prosecutors and established 12 regional task forces throughout the United States to crack down on the big money drug traffickers.

The results of that effort have been encouraging. The drug task forces have initiated 620 cases; they've indicted more than 2,600 individuals; and 143 of these indictments have been under the "Drug Kingpin" law, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Third, we've launched a full-scale offensive on the home ground of career criminals—organized crime itself. Organized crime arrests have nearly tripled, and confiscation of their assets is also sharply up. Our new commission on organized crime has brought much needed public attention to this problem, and as soon as it receives subpoena power, it will do even more.

Believe me, we in the administration have been trying to speak up for you, the millions of Americans who are fed up with crime, fed up with fear in our streets and neighborhoods, fed up with lenient judges, fed up with a criminal justice system that too often treats criminals better than it does their victims.

Too many Americans have had to suffer the effects of crime while too many of our leaders have stuck to the old, discredited, liberal illusions about crime—illusions that refuse to hold criminals responsible for their actions.

For example, I wonder how many of you know that the major part of our legislative initiative against crime remains right where it's remained for the last 3 years, dead in the water in the House of Representatives. Now, our crime package includes bills calling for bail reform, tougher sentencing, justice assistance to States and localities, improvement in the exclusionary rule and the insanity defense, and major reforms affecting drug trafficking, prison crowding, capital punishment, and forfeiture. All of these reforms are badly needed and constitutionally sound. In fact, our core crime package has already passed the Senate once by a vote of 91 to 1. But in the House of Representatives, the liberal leadership keeps it bottled up in committee.

I told a group of Texas lawyers yesterday, we're not about to quit on our crime bill. We're going to do what we've done in the past. We're going out to the heartland, and we're taking our case to you, the people. And so, I'm asking for your help today. Please send a message to the House leadership. Tell them to stop kowtowing to the special interests and start listening to you, the American people.

Americans want this anticrime legislation, and they want it now. And if those of you listening will lend a hand, we can get it now. Please tell your elected representatives you expect full and fair representation, and that means getting this bill out of committee and onto the floor of the House for a vote.

We've made real progress against crime in the last few years. Together, we can keep up the good work.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Law Enforcement and Crime Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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