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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1550, the Federal Law Enforcement Recruitment and Retention Act of 2012, was introduced by my friend and colleague on the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Pierluisi of Puerto Rico. It helps focus the Justice Department's law enforcement efforts on the areas of the country that need them the most.
Crime in the United States began to rise sharply in the 1960s and continued up to its peak in the early 1990s. In response, Congress and the States reformed their criminal laws to include tougher penalties and truth-in-sentencing laws, and they dedicated additional resources to target the rising crime rate.
To a great extent, our national focus on crime has been successful. The national violent crime rate in 2010 was almost half of what it was in 1991, and crime in the United States has continued to fall in spite of difficult economic times. The violent crime rate fell 5 percent from 2008 to 2009, and another 5 percent from 2009 to 2010.
Despite this good news, we are far from a solution to the problem of violent crime in all areas of the country. There are still areas where violent crime remains a very serious issue and is even on the rise. For example, in my district, the number of murders in the city of Austin nearly doubled in 1 year, going from 22 homicides in 2009 to 38 homicides in 2010. Puerto Rico, home to the sponsor of this bill, has experienced an increase in drug-related violent crime. With more than 1,100 deaths in 2011, the homicide rate in Puerto Rico last year was more than five times the national average. The majority of this violence is attributed to the area's growing drug trafficking trade, which has implications, of course, for mainland U.S.
The problem with high-crime areas may increase if there are not sufficient Federal law enforcement officers in these communities. To address this situation, the Justice Department started to dispatch surges of Federal law enforcement officers to prevent and investigate crime in high-crime cities like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Oakland, California. H.R. 1550 continues this momentum. It directs the Department of Justice to consider, in coordination with State and local governments, the need to recruit, assign, and retain Federal law enforcement personnel in areas of the country with high rates of homicides and other violent crimes, which of course should include Puerto Rico.
H.R. 1550 has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by the law enforcement community. The bill was reported out of the Judiciary Committee on a voice vote, and once again I want to thank Mr. Pierluisi for sponsoring this legislation.
H.R. 1550 improves the safety of the many Americans who live in fear of violent crime in their neighborhoods. So I urge my colleagues to support the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.
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