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The President's Radio Address

April 09, 1994

Good morning. This past week, I traveled across our country because I wanted the American people to hear directly from me about the progress we're making on their behalf and what we still have to do. Last month, our Nation gained 456,000 new jobs, the largest jump in 6 years. That brings the total number of private sector jobs created in this economy during our recovery to 2.3 million. That's twice as many new jobs in the past 14 months than we saw in the previous 4 years. I'm determined to keep building on that strength. Our job is to fix the economy and to give our people tools, like world-class education and health care security, so that they can compete and we can strengthen the great American middle class as we move toward the 21st century.

In my travels this week, people made it clear to me they expect us here in Washington to take care of one job immediately: to confront the crime and violence that are tearing our communities apart. None of our efforts to tackle other problems will work if we fail to address the overwhelming force of crime. It is reducing the sense of freedom the American people have.

If we can't stop people from hurting one another, we can never reduce the burden on our health care system and the fact that we have too much crime, too much violence, and too many people showing up in our emergency rooms. If we can't make our classrooms safe, we can't teach our children. If we don't replace drug money with good jobs and a steady paycheck, our people will never lose their fear and gain hope.

I'm convinced the American people want a crime policy that works without gimmicks and they want our leaders to make it possible for them to take back their streets, their homes, their schools, and their lives. That's why this week I ordered Attorney General Janet Reno and the Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Henry Cisneros, to promptly develop a policy allowing police to sweep public housing so that criminals cannot find shelter in the places they terrorize.

I took this action just hours after a Federal district judge in Chicago declared the Chicago Housing Authority's search policy a violation of the fourth amendment to the Constitution. We have to take some action to permit appropriate law enforcement work to go on in these projects. I have been in the Chicago housing projects, and I know the difference between those that have been swept free of illegal weapons and criminals and those which have not. Just last weekend, 13 people died violently in Chicago, 3 of them in the Robert Taylor Public Housing Project.

All Americans, rich and poor alike, deserve leaders they can rely on to protect their safety. Congress will have a chance to provide that kind of leadership when it comes back into session this Tuesday. The crime bill will be item number one on its agenda. Next week, police officers, mayors, and other community leaders all across our America will come here to Washington to join me at the White House to urge Congress to pass the crime bill. For 6 long years, we've waited for a comprehensive crime law. We shouldn't have to wait any longer.

The crime bill I have proposed to the Congress is both tough and smart. Right now, a small number of dangerous criminals commit a large proportion of the violent crimes because our system doesn't put them away. The crime bill sends a simple message, "three strikes and you're out"; commit three violent crimes, and you go to prison for life. The crime bill will help States build 33,000 more prison cells, along with boot camps for first-time offenders. It will help us to lock the revolving door that swings too freely on serious criminals and give young people a chance to avoid a life of crime.

The bill also will help us put another 100,000 police officers on our streets. More police in community policing settings means not only that more criminals will be caught, it means that there will be less crime. When police walk the streets, know their neighbors, win the respect of local young people, focus on high crime areas, and work with parents and business people, they can actually reduce crime. I have seen it in city after city after city.

Preventing violence from occurring in the first place is also an important part of our crime bill. It encourages young people to stay off the streets, offering employment opportunities, afterschool activities, and good role models who teach strong values. These boot camps and other similar operations will give us a chance to send first-time offenders to a disciplinary setting who might otherwise go free. But they'll also give these young people a second chance to avoid a lifetime of trouble, a chance to learn new discipline and how to behave responsibly.

We're doing more to make the schools safe and to get hard-core drug users into the treatment they need. But telling our kids to say no to drugs is only half the battle. If we want children to grow up to become law-abiding members of society, we have to help them find a place in tomorrow's economy to give them something to say yes to.

You and I both know Government can't do this job alone, nor should it. The most lawabiding societies are not those with the most jails. They're the ones with good jobs, strong families, and strong communities, where the rights of the community are respected, with strong values about helping, not hurting, one's neighbors. Let's face it: In a lot of places in this country, crime, drugs, and violence now fill the spaces where work and family and community used to be. So the job of all Americans is urgent. That's why I'm calling on everyone in Washington to put their partisanship aside. The American people don't want politics or gimmicks; they want us to do something that will work. Well, this crime bill will work. Next week, it's time for Congress to be tough and smart by passing the crime bill when it comes back into session. I hope you'll do your part by asking your Congressmen and Senators to see that the crime bill becomes law.

Finally, let me say just a brief word about a very tragic situation in the African nation of Rwanda. I'm deeply concerned about the continuing violence following the assassination of the President, the Prime Minister, and other officials as well as some of our United Nations peacekeepers. There are about 250 Americans there. I'm very concerned about their safety, and I want you to know that we're doing all we can to ensure their safety. I ask you to join together this morning in praying for their safety and for a return to peace in Rwanda.

Thanks for your help, and thanks for listening.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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