12 cities to receive Justice Department aid to lower crime

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) - The Justice Department will help 12 U.S. cities develop long-term strategies to decrease violent crime, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday.

The department will help local authorities study crime patterns and create specially tailored plans to reduce gang and gun violence, he said. Federal authorities will help cities find "data-driven, evidence-based strategies" that can be measured overtime.

"This program will help communities suffering from serious violent crime problems to build up their capacity to fight crime," Sessions said, speaking at a gathering of federal and state law enforcement officials in Bethesda, Maryland.

The cities are: Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Toledo, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Buffalo, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Jackson, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; Lansing, Michigan; and Springfield, Illinois.

The department said it chose cities that have higher-than-average rates of violence and showed receptiveness to receiving assistance. Other jurisdictions could be targeted later for the program, called the National Public Safety Partnership. In addition to developing strategies to cut crime rates, the Justice Department also says it will offer "coaching" to local officials on how to form sustainable coordination with federal law enforcement and prosecutors.

Sessions has repeatedly said that helping cities combat violence is a top priority for the Justice Department, and he's called on the nation's federal prosecutors to pursue tougher punishments against most crime suspects.

Tuesday's "crime summit" gathered officials from across the country to discuss crime-lowering strategies.