Spending Bill Provides $16M for 'Violent Crime Impact Teams'
Rep. Rothman Secures On-the-Record Promise from Key Republican to Use His Muscle to Focus One of Those Teams in New Jersey
Tonight, Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) secured an on-the-record promise from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to direct one or more of the 15 Violent Crime Impact Teams (VCIT) funded by his Committee to focus on New Jersey. Wolf chairs the Science, State, Justice, and Commerce Appropriations Committee in the House, which this year allocated $16 million for the U.S. Department of Justice to create fifteen VCITs. These are teams comprised of ATF agents, U.S. Marshals, Drug Enforcement Agents, and federal prosecutors who work together to reduce violent crime in designated areas.
"Violent crime is on the rise for the first time in 15 years, but families in Newark and Jersey City don't need a report to tell them that fact. Despite New Jersey's tough gun laws, firearms have been trafficked to criminals and gang members from out-of-state sales and those guns have been used to kill and maim our people," said Rothman. "While today's promise from Chairman Wolf is just that: a promise, it is my expectation that he will keep his word, put his muscle behind this issue, and help New Jersey become the focus of one of the Justice Department's Violent Crime Impact Teams."
During a back-and-forth with Chairman Wolf on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rothman outlined the toll that violent crime has taken on New Jersey, especially in Newark and Jersey City, and explained that these cities have been disproportionately affected by violence: "Just this past Sunday evening, at least two people were killed and eight injured in four separate shootings in Newark," he said.
Afterward, Rothman asked: "Mr. Chairman, will you work with me to direct one of more of the violent crime impact teams to these areas of New Jersey?" In response, Chairman Wolf promised to work with New Jersey saying: "I completely agree with what [Rothman] said. I appreciate his efforts to combat violent crime and am happy to do everything I can to work with the gentlemen and the ATF to address the crime in New Jersey."
The current Republican Leadership has not indicated a willingness to pass law enforcement measures aimed at prosecuting gun traffickers who break the law. However, one or more of the fifteen VCITs could focus on New Jersey and thus, help reduce New Jersey's violent crime, much of which is fueled by illegal gun sales.
"Having Chairman Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, support this effort to assign one of these teams to New Jersey means a great deal. Chairman Wolf is one of the key decision makers in all matters related to the Department of Justice and he is respected and listened to by the Administration and the Attorney General. To date, I have known Mr. Wolf as a man of his word and I am confident that he will work hard to ensure that one of these teams will focus on New Jersey," added Rothman.
Areas that the VCITs will focus on in 2007 have not yet been assigned. The cities of Newark and Jersey City have crime rates two to three times higher than the average national rate of 478 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Preliminary data for 2005 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows the violent crime rates for Jersey City and Newark are 1,302 crimes per 100,000 people and 1,008 crimes per 100,000 people, respectively.
The conversation between Rep. Rothman and Wolf is known as a "Congressional Colloquy," a dialogue on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives between the chairman of a committee and another Member of Congress. The dialogue seeks to clarify the intent behind certain provisions for purposes of legislative history.