Biden to address US crime wave in New York visit

WASHINGTON, United States -- President Joe Biden will address the soaring US crime wave during a trip next week to New York, where five police officers have been shot this year, the White House said Wednesday.

Rising urban violence is a major political liability for the Democrat, with a January study by the Council on Criminal Justice showing homicides in 22 cities increased five percent in 2021 -- and a whopping 44 percent over 2019 levels.

Biden will meet next Thursday with Mayor Eric Adams, who took over the Big Apple at the start of the year and was immediately confronted with a spate of high-profile crimes. Two police officers have been killed and three others wounded just this month.

And the city has been unsettled by a series of other violent crimes this month, including another shooting in which a 19-year-old Puerto Rican woman was killed at the fast food restaurant where she worked.

They will "discuss the administration's comprehensive strategy to combat gun crime, which includes historic levels of funding for cities and states to put more cops on the beat and invest in community violence prevention and intervention programs, as well as stepped up federal law enforcement efforts against illegal gun traffickers," the White House said.

The crime wave -- which still leaves US cities far safer than they were in the 1990s -- has been connected by experts to a combination of social disruption linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and fallout for police departments in the aftermath of a spate of botched arrests in which Black people were killed or badly injured.

Biden faces pressure from the right, which blames him for presiding over rising disorder, and from the left, which has campaigned for police reforms -- at times, going as far as the "defund the police" movement.

Biden has stressed the need to control the flow of unregistered weapons, such as so-called ghost guns that cannot be traced after use in a crime.

Adams, himself a former police officer, said in a statement also posted to Twitter Wednesday, "Public safety is my administration's highest priority, and we welcome the opportunity to display to President Biden how federal and local governments can coordinate and support each other in this fight to keep New Yorkers safe." And he echoed Biden's message earlier this week when he called gun violence "a public health crisis." The mayor, a Democrat, has proposed more aggressive policing, with deployment of undercover officers.

According to a Pew Research poll last year, some 30 percent of Americans say they own a firearm.