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Remarks on Accepting a Report on Anticrime Initiatives and an Exchange With Reporters

September 16, 1996

The President. Thank you very much. Let me just make a couple of comments about this. First of all, I want to thank the Attorney General for the extraordinary effort that she has made to deal with the problems of youth violence and particularly gang-related violence and crime in our country. This report is further evidence that our efforts are actually working and that we can bring down the level of youth violence and gang-related violence in our country if we'll work at it in a systematic, disciplined, tough way.

We have a straightforward approach: more police on the street, guns and drugs off the street. We are putting 100,000 police in our neighborhoods, and that's a job we need to finish. The assault weapons ban, the Brady bill are making a difference. We've just established a registry for sex offenders; that will make a difference. "Three strikes and you're out"—that law is being implemented, and it is making a difference.

We've also advocated community-based solutions: curfews, strict truancy enforcement, school uniform options. Last week I announced an initiative for comprehensive drug testing for prisoners and parolees in State prisons that access the Federal funds for prison building. This will make a difference.

Now, there's no question that the battle against violent crime and drugs begins with neighbors looking out for neighbors, parents looking out for their children, citizens linking arms with law enforcement. We have to have a community-based approach to this. But the Federal Government must do its part as well.

The level of violent crime in our country has gone down for 4 years in a row. The level of killing by juveniles has gone down now for 2 years in a row, and the juvenile crime rate overall finally showed a drop. But we are a long way from where we need to be in this country. We have to keep working on this until we have dramatically reduced the level of crime and violence.

That is why I want to build on a particular area of promise, using the antiracketeering RICO statute to fight criminal gangs. Using RICO, the United States brought criminal mobs to their knees. Using RICO, the United States helped to smash the Medellin drug cartel. And today we are using RICO to break up criminal gangs. As the Attorney General has reported, since the end of 1992 we have more than doubled the number of gang-related RICO prosecutions. So far this year nearly 40 percent of the RICO prosecutions involved violent gangs.

RICO prosecutions against gangs are lengthy. They're complex. We need to give our prosecutors the time they need to make the best case. That's why I am calling on the Congress to expand the statute of limitations for violent crime and gangs from 5 years to 10 years. The statute of limitations for bank fraud is 10 years; it should be no less for violent crime.

The days when Washington was more interested in asking who's to blame than what to do about a crime are long since passed now. We've made a good start in fighting violent crime and gangs, but we must keep going until the job is done.

And again, Madam Attorney General, I want to thank you for this and for the work it represents.

Thank you.


Q. Mr. President, Saddam Hussein appears to have pulled in his horns. Does that mean the U.S. can forgo any immediate further air strikes?

The President. Let me answer you as clearly as I can. We have sought no confrontation with Saddam Hussein; we never did, and we don't now. We do seek to enforce the no-fly zone and to do it under conditions in which our pilots will be safe. And I will do the very best I can to make the right judgment on that question, listening to my military advisers about the facts.

And that is the only answer I can give you to that question. My concern is that we limit Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten his neighbors, that we do it with the no-fly zone, and that in doing so we keep our pilots safe.

Safety of U.S. Troops Overseas

Q. Mr. President, Kuwait has indicated now that it is willing to accept more American troops. At the same time, the Pentagon has released a study about the safety of troops. Could I ask your reaction to that study, and what do you tell the people who are going into that region again that—where some don't like American troops on Arab soil?

The President. Well, first, I want to thank General Downing. I think he did a very good job, and he did exactly what I asked him to do. I said, "I want an unvarnished, blunt, straightforward report. I want you to take a hard line here because we have got to do everything we can to ensure the safety of the troops." And that is exactly what we did, and the Pentagon and the American people are in his debt.

Now, I had a meeting with Secretary Perry on Friday evening, and he had been briefed, obviously, on the outline of the recommendations of the Downing report. He said that the Defense Department was already in the process of implementing virtually all of the recommendations of the Downing report, that he fully agreed with them, and that we would be aggressive in the implementation of the recommendations.

So I think it's fair to say that we know we're living in a world in which terrorism is a bigger problem and in which Americans may be the target of terrorists, particularly Americans in uniform. And as we know more about what we can do to protect them, we intend to do everything we can. I give you the same answer I gave to Jim [Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News] on the previous question. And we are going to aggressively implement the Downing report.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:15 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gen. Wayne A. Downing, USA (Ret.), Director, Downing Assessment Task Force.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Accepting a Report on Anticrime Initiatives and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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