(NewsNation) — Attorney General Merrick Garland met with law enforcement groups to address violent crime plaguing the nation.
The group discussed combatting violent crime and prosecuting and deterring those who criminally threaten public servants, including law enforcement personnel, members of Congress, judges and election workers.
“We must remain focused and vigilant. That said, we are encouraged by the data we are seeing indicating a decline in homicides,” Garland said.
While homicides and most other violent crimes have declined in U.S. cities in the first half of 2023, they remain above pre-pandemic levels, according to a study of crime trends by the Council on Criminal Justice.
Homicides were down 9.4% based on FBI data, and the CCJ notes that if that trend continues through the end of 2023, it will be the largest single-year drop in murders since modern record-keeping began.
Murder isn’t the only crime that’s down. A separate database shows a 12.7% decline in homicides, with an 8% decline in violent crime overall and a 6.3% decline in property crime, the lowest number since 1961. Gun assaults were also down 5.6%.
The only exception is auto theft, which is up at a 33.5% increase.
In a statement, President Joe Biden credited the bipartisan Safer Communities Act for stopping more than 500 illegal gun purchases by those under 21.
“This historic legislation is working to keep guns out of the hands of young people who shouldn’t have them in the first place, for common sense reasons like criminal records or because they have been determined to be a danger to themselves or others. By interrupting these illegal gun purchases, we are taking action to stop suicides, deadly domestic violence, and mass shootings,” he said.
Biden also called on Congress to take more action on gun control. calling for a national red-flag law, universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and an end to immunity for gun manufacturers.
Garland also addressed the “disturbing” spike in threats against public servants. Just this week, several bomb threats were made against courthouses across the country.
“These threats of violence are unacceptable. They threaten the fabric of our democracy,” Garland said.
The attorney general took a moment to address the upcoming anniversary of the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, recalling the brutal violence against Capitol officers who worked to protect those inside it.
Yet while the crime data numbers paint a promising picture, Americans are saying something different. Americans’ fear of crime is at a 30-year high.
“Violent crime isolates people in communities, deepens the fractures in our public life and when it is not addressed, it can undermine people’s trust in the government and in each other,” Garland said.
Recent polling from Gallup showed that 77% of Americans think crime is worsening. Republicans are most likely to hold that view at 92%, but 78% of independents and 58% of Democrats also think crime is on the rise.
Theories about what’s causing the discrepancy include how crime is covered by media and how easily crime stories can be shared on social media.
NewsNation’s Stephanie White contributed to this report.