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Statement by the President Upon Signing the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1968.

November 09, 1967

WHEN I signed the Law Enforcement Assistance Act more than 2 years ago, I said:

"The control of crime is a major target of this administration .... I will not be satisfied until every woman and child in this Nation can walk any street, enjoy any park, drive on any highway, and live in any community at any time of the day or night without fear of being harmed."

I was proud to sign that act. It strengthened the alliance of the Federal Government and America's local policemen in the fight against crime.

Before me is another measure that deals with crime--the fiscal 1968 appropriations bill for the Department of Justice.

It provides the funds for our Federal law enforcement activities and programs--the FBI, the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, our U.S. attorneys and marshals, and the Law Enforcement Assistance Act.

This bill underscores the importance of another urgent measure which I hope will be sent to me for signature--the Safe Streets and Crime Control Act I recommended last February.

The Safe Streets Act is the most comprehensive and powerful anticrime measure ever devised by the Federal Government. As part of a total strategy to improve law enforcement and the administration of justice, it will help our communities recruit better policemen, train them better, use them better, and arm them with better crime-fighting weapons.

If America were to send its Armed Forces into combat ill-equipped, underpaid, undertrained, and unappreciated, it would be a national scandal.

Yet, for far too long, we have accepted such conditions as a way of life for America's 420,000 policemen.

In their hands rest the lives and safety of 200 million Americans. But our policemen too often are ill-equipped. Too often they are underpaid, undertrained, and unappreciated.

Every day, around the clock, they risk their lives to protect us. They carry one of the most difficult and awesome responsibilities in our society.

America's policemen need their country's help. They deserve the respect and support of every citizen. Above all, we must help them meet the challenge of crime.

We must act. Mere talk will not do. The robber and the racketeer are deaf to political sermons. So is the peddler of dope and dangerous drugs who preys on our young, enslaving their minds, damaging their bodies, and destroying their spirits.

Crime is primarily a local problem and law enforcement is a responsibility of local government. This point is fundamental. From the beginning of the Republic, the people have wisely rejected the idea of a national police force. The Government in Washington cannot walk a beat, patrol a neighborhood, guard a city.

The jurisdiction of the Federal Government is strictly limited by the Constitution to crimes such as counterfeiting, fraud against the Federal Government, espionage, and certain interstate offenses, including those by organized crime. It has no authority over the arsonist who burns a house or a burglar in a metropolitan suburb, or the man who rapes a young girl.

Nevertheless the Federal Government cannot be an indifferent spectator to the urgent needs for stronger local law enforcement.

These compelling needs have often outstripped the financial capacity of local governments. The Federal Government can and should help bridge the gap--not with words, but with resources. This is what the Safe Streets Act is all about. It will:

--Let us help our police get the best men, the best training, and the decent salaries they deserve.

--Let us help arm them with the patrol cars, radios, alarm boxes, street lights, detection equipment, and all the other modern tools they lack.

--Let us help build new crime laboratories.

--Let us help modernize the entire system of justice, from courts to correctional institutions.

--Let us help improve the quality of justice as well as the chances of young offenders to reject a life of crime.

The blueprint for all this assistance is in the hands of Congress. That design, drawn by America's most experienced criminologists, prosecutors, and police chiefs, is the Safe Streets Act.

Pass the Safe Streets Act and we can help arm and strengthen local law enforcement agencies and police departments in America.

Pass the gun control law and we can help local communities across the Nation keep weapons out of wrong hands. Contrary to the misrepresentations of those who actively seek to defeat this vital legislation, it will not prevent hunters, sportsmen, and other responsible citizens with legitimate needs from obtaining a gun. The measure will, however, help protect our families and homes against those elements of society to whom a gun is an instrument of violence and terror.

Events will not wait. Neither must we.

Note: As enacted, the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1968, approved on November 8, 1967, is Public Law 90-133 (81 Stat. 410).

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 was approved by the President on June 19, 1968 (Public Law 90-351, 82 Stat. 197).

For the President's statement upon signing the Law Enforcement Assistance Act of 1965, see 1965 volume, this series, Book II, Item 526.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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