"Building safe and secure communities is one of our most important national priorities for the 110th Congress. This rests in large part on drug- and crime-free schools and a visible police force rooted in our communities. At the same time, we must seek to invest critical resources in the prevention and intervention of criminal activity by at-risk youth." -- Rep. Adam Schiff
COPS and KIDS
Congressman Schiff believes that enforcement of the law must go hand in hand with prevention. As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Congressman Schiff has prosecuted violent criminals, but he also understands that
In the 111th Congress, Rep. Schiff introduced the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Key Investments in Developmental Services (KIDS) Act. The COPS and KIDS Act would invest in proven programs to keep kids out of trouble and in school, while supporting community level policing that puts cops on the streets in our neighborhoods. Rep. Schiff believes that an effective strategy against crime has to recognize the importance of supporting programs to help at-risk young people stay out of gangs and out of trouble. The bill would also fund programs to help juvenile offenders turn their lives around by providing counseling, substance abuse treatment, and educational services.
Protecting Children from Predators
As the father of two young children, Congressman Schiff has been a longtime advocate for child safety. Among the work that he has done in this area is his introduction, in both the 110th and 111th Congresses, of the Child Protection Improvements Act. The bill would allow local, child-serving organizations to conduct cheap, fast, and accurate criminal background checks on prospective volunteers and employees. There are thousands of community based groups working around our nation to provide mentoring, tutoring, and assistance to young people, and they rely on volunteers to provide those services. These groups need to be able to conduct quick and accurate background checks on volunteers so they can ensure the safety of children.
The Child Protection Improvements Act creates just such a system by using the FBI's fingerprint based database, but limiting the search to certain felonies that might impact the volunteer's fitness to work with children. At every step of the way, measures are taken to ensure confidentiality and privacy for all involved. The bill builds on an existing six year old pilot which has run over 60,000 background checks since 2003 for less than $20 a check. Under the pilot, 6 percent of applicants have been found to have serious criminal histories, including crimes against children and sexual assaults. The pilot demonstrated that the program can work. Congressman Schiff will be working to pass the bill in the 111th Congress.
Solving Crimes Through Forensic Evidence
The advent of DNA evidence has transformed law enforcement. As many observers have noted, DNA is really the modern fingerprint, yet even more powerful. However, to use DNA technology to its fullest potential to take criminals and predators off the streets, we need to invest in DNA technology. Congressman Schiff has made effectively utilizing DNA in law enforcement one of his top priorities as a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Most recently, when the COPS Improvement Act, a bill which reauthorizes an existing grant program for local law enforcement, was considered in the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Schiff offered an important amendment on DNA. The amendment would allow cities and local police departments to apply for grants to hire DNA lab technicians. You can read more about his amendment here.
Congressman Schiff has also been working through the appropriations process to increase resources for local crime labs as they struggle to clear a decade old backlog of DNA evidence collected from sexual assaults. Congressman Schiff has called on every city in the region to enforce a policy of testing every sexual assault kit in a timely manner to catch sexual predators before they can hurt another victim.
Cracking Down on Identity Theft and Spyware
Responding to his constituents' requests that Congress crack down on the growing epidemic of identity theft, in May 2007, Congressman Schiff introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) that takes strong steps to combat cyber crime and protect data security. The Cyber-Security Enhancement Act is designed to help protect American consumers and businesses from the costly effects of identity theft and computer fraud.
Congressman Schiff has serious concerns that as criminals use new technologies to prey upon their victims and defraud consumers, we must develop better ways to track down the perpetrators and put them away. This legislation would provide better data security protections for individuals and businesses and would give law enforcement the tools they need to successfully track down and prosecute cyber criminals.
Many of the reforms that Congressman Schiff introduced were ultimately enacted as part of a larger bill (H.R. 6060) in the 110th Congress in October 2008. Congressman Schiff will be working in the 111th Congress to make sure our laws stay up to date and able to effectively combat cyber criminals and identity thieves.
Congressman Schiff has long been concerned with the issue of identity theft. Congressman Schiff has previously co-authored the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act with Rep. John Carter (R-TX) to give prosecutors greater power in bringing charges against thieves who steal an identity for the purpose of committing other serious crimes. The Carter-Schiff identity theft bill was signed into law in 2004.
Identity theft has topped the list of consumer complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the last four years in a row impacting millions of Americans and costing consumers and businesses billions of dollars. The FTC has created a page detailing the problem of identity theft and giving tips on how you can protect yourself. California cities crowd the top 10 list of metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of identity theft reported. The Los Angeles/Long Beach metropolitan area -- that includes the 29th Congressional District -- is particularly prone to such crimes, ranking second nationally with over 13,000 victims.
Preventing Gang Violence
Congressman Schiff has long fought to end gang violence, dating back to his days as a federal prosecutor and State Senator. Most recently, Congressman Schiff has joined with Congresswoman Bono (R-CA), Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to halt gang violence. The Gang Abatement and Prevention Act would create new criminal gang offenses and require harsher penalties for illegal gang members who are convicted of those crimes, while focusing on providing new resources for community-based programs that seek to prevent future gang activity. The legislation includes more than $1 billion in funding for prevention and intervention programs and law enforcement.
As a former federal prosecutor, Congressman Schiff has seen firsthand the damage that gangs cause in our community. The bill takes concrete steps in fighting gang violence by increasing federal support for law enforcement and by cracking down on gang offenders and increasing penalties for those gang members who terrorize our communities. Of equal importance to Congressman Schiff, the legislation also takes the next step in prevention and intervention efforts to protect our children from gang violence.
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, crime in Los Angeles has decreased for the last five years. However, gang-related crime is on the rise. In 2006, gang-related crime increased by 15.7 percent citywide, translating into 1,046 additional gang-related crimes from the previous year. Those crimes include homicides, attempted homicides, felony assaults, and robberies. The Gang Abatement and Prevention Act seeks to crack down on gang-related crime in areas where gang activity is particularly prevalent. The bill will also increase resources for community-based intervention and prevention initiatives focused on at-risk youth in these same areas.
This bill takes a similar prevention and intervention-based model as the landmark juvenile delinquency legislation that Congressman Schiff passed when he was in the State Legislature -- the Schiff Cardenas Crime Prevention Act of 2000. The State legislation was the first time that California invested as much in prevention of crime as in the suppression of crime.
Protecting Against Acts of Arson
Each year, California's wilderness areas, homes and businesses are threatened by deadly fires, many of which are a result of arson. Firefighters have a tough enough job managing natural forest fires given California's climate. As a former federal prosecutor, Congressman Schiff handled arson cases, among others and saw how arson crimes have incalculable damage. Intentionally-set fires destroy homes, precious natural resources and take the lives of innocent victims and our brave men and women on the front lines of public safety.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), nearly 70,000 arsons were reported in 2005. The Department of Homeland Security reported that intentionally-set structural fires alone resulted in 315 civilian deaths and $664 million in property loss in 2005. These statistics are alarming, as is the fact that law enforcement agencies cleared only 17.1 percent of arson offenses by arrest.
For this reason, Congressman Schiff has co-authored the Managing Arson Through Criminal History (MATCH) Act of 2009 along with Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-CA), which establishes a national database to track convicted arsonists. The legislation recognizes that arson is a crime with high recidivism rates and seeks to ensure that firefighters and public safety officers are aware of criminal arsonists living in their region. The national database would only provide access to law enforcement and fire investigators to protect the privacy of individuals that have served their time, however it will ensure that law enforcement has access to fingerprints and photographs of convicted arsonists should they be involved in a future arson. Congressman Schiff jointly introduced similar legislation in the 110th Congress. The bill was passed on a voice vote by the full House, but did not clear the Senate before the end of the session.
Combating Drug Abuse in our Communities
Drug abuse is a serious problem challenging our nation. While several attempts have been made by the federal government to reduce drug abuse, it remains a widespread tragedy. Millions of Americans suffer from drug dependencies, however, studies have shown that drug treatment is extremely effective, reducing overall drug usage by nearly 60%. However, the availability and affordability of treatment programs remains inadequate to meet the current need.
Congressman Schiff has worked hard to combat drug abuse in our nation. He joined other Members of the House in 2007 introducing the Second Chance Act, which seeks to reduce further criminal activity by individuals released from prison. The legislation includes employment and housing programs, as well as programs to improve academic and vocational skills of incarcerated offenders.
Congressman Schiff has authored two provisions in the Second Chance Act to reduce drug use. One provision provides funding for drug treatment upon request to ensure that any individual seeking drug treatment can have quick and free access to such treatment. A second provision provides a grant program for a method called "coerced abstinence," which targets frequent drug testing, graduated sanctions and treatment for long-term chronic drug users. The Second Chance Act was signed into law in April 2008.
Safeguarding Our Children and Families
As a parent of two young children, Congressman Schiff believes that we must do everything in Congress to safeguard our children, our families, and our communities. In particular, he has worked to support and improve important child-protection initiatives, such as the Amber Alert network. Under the Amber Alert system, law enforcement officers can launch an "alert" by informing broadcast media immediately after a child has been kidnapped and is considered endangered. Congressman Schiff was an original cosponsor of legislation to provide for a national Amber Alert system to respond to abductions quickly and effectively, even if abductors flee across state lines.
One of the most dangerous aspects of the Internet is the proliferation of child exploitation and pornography. In response to these despicable practices, Schiff supported legislation that strengthens federal law to punish child pornographers and directs the Attorney General to appoint additional trial attorneys for investigation and prosecution of federal child pornography laws. As a Member of the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Schiff has also pushed for increased funding for DOJ's Project Safe Childhood, an initiative to strengthen prosecutions of child exploitation cases. He also sought additional funding for the FBI's Crimes Against Children investigative division which addresses child abductions, predators who sexually assault children and child prostitution.