Garland says US witnessing ‘deeply disturbing spike in threats’ against public servants

Attorney General Merrick Garland is warning Friday that the U.S. is “witnessing a deeply disturbing spike in threats against those who serve the public,” as the country continues to battle a “scourge in violent crime.” 

Garland spoke in Washington, D.C., as he gathered leaders from the Justice Department’s law enforcement components – including the FBI, ATF, DEA and U.S. Marshals Service – to discuss combating violent crime and prosecuting and deterring those who would criminally threaten public servants. 

“Violent crime is not just a threat to people’s physical safety, it is a threat to their ability to freely go about their daily lives. Violent crime isolates people and communities. It deepens the fractures in our public life, and when it is not addressed can undermine people’s trust in the government and in each other,” Garland said.

“This department and our state and local partners will not rest until every community in our country is safe from the scourge of violent crime,” he continued. “At the same time that we are seeing an encouraging downward trend in violent crime, we are also witnessing a deeply disturbing spike in threats against those who serve the public.” 

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Garland noted that the FBI has indicated the number of homicides fell 6% nationally between 2021 and 2022, while the Major Cities Chiefs Association of Police Executives has reported a double digit decrease in the number of murders across 69 major cities through September 2023 as compared to the same time period during 2020.

However, “this is not a time to relax our efforts,” he said. “We have so much more to do.” 

“In May 2021, we launched a violent crime reduction strategy aimed at addressing the spike in violent crime that has occurred during the pandemic,” Garland told reporters. “Central to that strategy has been the importance of our partnerships, partnerships among federal law enforcement agencies who are assisting the fight against violent crime, partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies tasked with protecting their local communities, and partnerships with the local communities themselves.” 

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Garland said in the final months of last year, the Justice Department has “investigated and charged individuals with making violent threats against FBI agents, federal judges, including a Supreme Court justice, presidential candidates, members of Congress, members of the military and election workers.

“Just this week, several bomb threats were made against courthouses across the country. U.S. Marshals Service, FBI and our state and local partners are aggressively investigating those bomb threats, which constitute serious offenses,” Garland added. “And just yesterday, we arrested and charged an individual with threatening to kill a member of Congress and his children.” 

Garland also spoke about the upcoming anniversary of the January 6 protests and said “we must never forget the terrible violence inflicted on law enforcement officers” on that day. 

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