Tribune Photo/Joey Hedges

By Tribune Staff

President Donald R. Trump (R) and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke to several hundred federal, state and local law enforcement officials and prosecutors Friday at the Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference at the Westin at Crown Center. Project Safe Neighborhoods is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice.

In his opening remarks, Trump thanked the attendees for their service to keeping America safe. “Everyone here today is committed to the same vital goal—liberating our communities from crime and securing the right of all citizens to live in safety and to live in peace,” he said.

He said at the core of his administration’s strategy is to restore respect of America’s law enforcement and police officers. “We will not tolerate attacks on the heroes who defend our streets and protect our communities,” he said.

President Trump said his administration wants to provide law enforcement with the resources they need to do their jobs. He said his administration has added nearly 200 new violent crime prosecutors nationwide and has distributed nearly $200 million in surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies. He said his administration has also increased funding for Project Safe Neighborhood to $50 million and has asked Congress to increase that amount next year.

The president also discussed steps his administration is taking to tackle drug-related crime. He said his administration has secured nearly $6 billion to combat the opioid crisis. Also, he said his administration has increased the average sentence for drug trafficking since 2013. Trump also said he had signed landmark legislation that will help stop fentanyl, an opioid, from entering the U.S. through the mail service.

President Trump praised a couple of specific community programs which serve as positive examples of positive crime prevention strategies.

President Trump was preceded by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (R). Ashcroft thanked the attendees for their service. “Service,” he said, “is a dedication of a life.” Ashcroft has served as Missouri Governor and U.S. Senator.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had opened the conference Wednesday focusing his remarks on efforts to reduce violent crime. Rosenstein told the audience that new innovations such as crime gun intelligence centers, have helped stop a three-year surge in violent crime statistics.

The two-and-a-half day conference included workshops on a variety of crime reduction topics, opportunities to meet with Department of Justice officials and to discuss projects and coordination with other law enforcement officials.