Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY THE VICE PRESIDENT, SECRETARY HENRY CISNEROS, SECRETARY LLOYD BENTSEN,
ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO AND DIRECTOR OF DRUG POLICY LEE BROWN
The Briefing Room
10:14 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much for coming. There's no more important issue to President Clinton and to all of us than crime. The entire administration is working on this matter, and just about all of us who are working on it full-time are here today. I'm going to speak first, but then turn it over to Secretary Cisneros and Secretary Bentsen and Attorney General Reno and Director Lee Brown.
I simply want to affirm this administration's determination to make our community safe and to say how happy we are that this concerted and coordinated campaign to reduce crime in public housing is now underway. This announcement today of Operation Safe Home represents the coordination of activities throughout the administration to address this problem.
It is not right that we ask poor people to live in public housing so dangerous that the police will not even patrol there. It is not right that we ask children to come home from school to hallways and stairwells where they are completely at the whim of drug pushers with Uzi machine guns. It is not right that vacant housing units which should be prepared for families in need of housing are taken over by drug lords and used as bases for drug sales that infect entire neighborhoods. It is not right that housing funds and repair materials are siphoned off by white-collar hustlers when Americans in need of housing are sleeping on sidewalks and park benches.
We intend to do something about it. This interagency, administration-wide approach is designed to make housing safe in this country.
I was in Chicago yesterday, on a day when the newspapers were filled with the reports of 19 children being found living in squalor, eating food from bowls that dogs were using on the floor of the apartment. The adults were not taking responsibility, obviously, and were allegedly involved with the drug pushers who were on the doorsteps and in the neighborhood.
Last week I went to a high school less than two miles from the White House where gunshots rang out and kids in chemistry class had to duck under the desks when the window was broken by a bullet. I also saw another school yesterday in Chicago, just blocks from the place where those children were found living in squalor, the Flower Vocational School. And this school demonstrated the hope that we can fight crime successfully.
The problem is enormous and we have to understand how serious and how difficult the challenge is. We've all talked about
how much pride we take in the administration's economic successes with all of the new improvements in jobs and the low interest rates and recovering consumer confidence, and it's been a good year. But in the same year that we talk about all these favorable statistics, more than 23,000 Americans were murdered; more than 100,000 women were raped, nearly two million were victims of assault.
In that same year, the statistics tell us that 160,000 children stayed home each day from school because they're scared that they would be hurt at school. And in our public housing throughout this country, we see a crime rate and murder rate and incidents of violence that is much larger than in the community as a whole. And today what we're saying is we're going to do something about it.
We're taking a holistic approach. We're taking an approach that coordinates the activities of every department and agency, and we're determined to be successful. This fits in with the President's larger efforts to put 100,000 more community police officers on the streets, to ban assault weapons, to make it tougher for juveniles to get any kind of gun, to put the repeat offenders away and to take the other steps that are necessary to fight crime. And in this Operation Safe Home approach, we're going to zero in on a particular part of the crime problem that is very serious, that we're going to do something about.
So that's the reason we're here. And I want to make just two points briefly before turning it over to Secretary Cisneros. First, not all crime is violent crime. The fraud and abuse in the small number of HUD operations, the equity skimming and multifamily insured housing taints everyone unfairly. And we're going to root out both kinds.
Second, the old ways of fighting crime are not enough. The thrust of our National Performance Review Report was that for some problems, government has to develop programs that cut across department and agency lines. And for the problem of crime we're doing just that and this program is an example.
Now, finally, the overwhelming majority of people in public housing are good people who work hard and are trying to hold their families together. They deserve the right and the opportunity to walk the streets in front of their housing units without getting mugged; the right to ride the elevator to their floor without worry; to sit in their homes without having bullets crash through the window. And they are the people that we thought about the most in devising this program. They are the ones that we most want to help.
And now it's my pleasure to step back and let Secretary Cisneros describe in some more detail how this program will work and he will then, in turn, recognize Secretary Bentsen who will pass it along to the other members of the Cabinet who are here. Secretary Cisneros.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President.
This effort stems from a pilot initiative that we worked together on in October of this last year, when HUD, together with the Justice Department, United States attorneys and Drug Enforcement Administration in the Boston area, raided and netted 18 major drug dealers operating out of public housing -- a group that was known in the Charleston area of Boston as the Irish mafia. And when we were able to root out that problem in public housing, it had a major effect in an entire section of Boston.
So, while we address ourselves to public housing as a base of operations, in many cases, we're really talking about an entire area of cities -- entire neighborhoods. And so it is
completely in concert with the President's commitment to address crime on the streets of America's cities and communities.
We have a special obligation, obviously, to persons who live in public housing settings because they live in housing that is federally assisted, and we have an obligation to try to make that housing, which we are part of, which we help support, safe. Many public housing communities, simply stated, are not safe today.
In Los Angeles, for example, between 1986 and 1989, it's reported that even though the citywide rate of crime is 22 per 1,000 citywide; violent crime incidents, 22 per 1,000; in the public housing developments of Los Angeles it is 67 per 1,000, or three times the rate. And in 1988 it was documented that the murder rate in public housing in Chicago was three times the citywide average.
Crime statistics also show that public housing residents are not to blame for the reign of terror. The executive director for the New Haven, Connecticut Housing Authority reports, for example, that while 10 percent of the city's residents live in public housing, 85 percent of those arrested on public housing authority property do not live there. And the police in Cincinnati, Ohio, report that 77 percent of the people arrested in public housing authority crime are nonresidents.
Clearly, no one in America should live in conditions where they live in constant fear. Operation Safe Home will bring the law enforcement resources of the federal government, in cooperation with state and local authorities, to bear on violent crime in public and assisted housing. And that means the Department of Justice, the Department of Treasury, the Office of the Drug Administrator.
First I'd like to briefly outline what HUD is doing for its part as an element of this initiative to address violent crime and white-collar crime. There are three elements to our initiative: first, to combat violent crime in public housing; second, to deal with white-collar crime -- that is to say the siphoning off of contracts and repairs and money that ought to be going to keep housing units in good shape; and finally, nonpublic housing but other assisted housing equity skimming and so forth.
We are proposing to the Congress a new initiative we call COMPAC -- Community Partnership Against Crime -- for the specific purpose of focusing new resources in these settings. We're implementing policies to bar gun dealers from operating in public housing; to help housing authorities relocate residents who come forward to testify about criminal activities with the cooperation of the FBI; giving public housing authorities more flexibility to redirect funds so they can quickly implement new crime-fighting strategies -- all of these directed to the problem of violent crime in public housing.
To combat some of the white-collar crime issues, the fraud that leads to physical deterioration of housing, which is a valuable, taxpayer-supported effort, we're working to identify in a concerted way the crackdown on public housing fraud -- undertaking a joint effort to target, investigate and prosecute case involving substantial fraud in public housing administrations; conducting a series of probes now to uncover additional instances of cooperation. And in this, the Inspector General at HUD and the FBI are cooperating.
Equity skimming, I mentioned ago, where property owners illegally divert resources from their projects, results in substandard living conditions for residents and potentially huge losses for taxpayers. Activities where people front and set up sham organizations to provide housing and then skim the money off for private gain.
Today we are attempting to, in one area of our responsibilities as a federal government-assisted and public housing, to send a clear message that is in concert with the President's larger message to the American people about crime.
Our message to those who would defraud taxpayers and prey on public housing residents for illegal gain is straightforward and simple: Don't even think about it. Our message to gains and drug dealers and other criminals is equally clear: There is no safe harbor for you in federally-financed housing.
And finally, for the residents of public and assisted housing, the people who get up every day and send their children to school, who so desperately need a safe and decent and wholesome environment, our message is: We will not write off your communities as unsalvageable war zones. We will not look the other way while your children are lost to violence and drugs. We're going to work with you to make your homes, your neighborhoods and your communities safe homes.
It is my pleasure to introduce the Secretary of the Treasury, the honorable Lloyd Bentsen, who has participated in some of the pilot initiatives that have given force to this operation. This is an effort to take things that are working and have worked in specific locals, a new kind of cooperation across federal departments, and take it to the country in a major assault on crime based in publicly supported housing.
SECRETARY BENTSEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I suppose last year I must have made two dozen speeches about home starts and about low interest rates. Different type of speech this time -- talking about safe homes and what we can do about it. And as the Secretary was stating, we've done some test-tube things, we've done some test marketing, we've done some laboratories, in effect, to see what works and what doesn't work. And we saw a situation where we brought the ATF together with the New York Housing Authority and we did that in East and Central Harlem to get the firearms out.
The number of robberies in those housing projects, down 47 percent. Number of felonies reported, down 13 percent. Number of felony arrests, up 34 percent. We can make a difference if we work at it, if we have the resources, if we pool our best talents, working more cooperatively together. Something that may be a fringe bit of information for us may be very basic and essential to the Justice Department, or vice versa. So working together I think we can do a much more effective job.
And that's why I'm here -- to commit Treasury's enforcement activities to the goal that Secretary Cisneros, that Attorney General Janet Reno, that Dr. Brown, these things that we share -- a safe home.
What we see in housing projects is a lot of crime that's committed not by people who live there, but by outsiders. They come in often with handguns and they hire kids to do their dirty work for them. Out of Treasury we'll fight this by doing some of the things that you have not seen before. Insofar as the Secret Service, I don't know anyone that does a better job in protective services; they're experts. So what we'll do in that regard, what I've asked them to do is to apply that expertise to the housing projects. They'll go in and they'll look at the lighting, they'll look at the fences, they'll look at the exits. They'll recommend how to make those places safer. They did this in Chicago and it worked; and they'll be doing more of this.
I've asked the ATF to strengthen its work in housing projects. We call what we do in Harlem Project Uptown. We look at how violent criminals involved in narcotics -- what they do in these projects and how they're related to firearms. It's very dangerous work. You don't just go in and bust a door down and enter. There's a lot of undercover work that's also done in that regard. And if you do that right, the results are there. Last year we started doing some similar work in Baltimore, carried it on over there.
The Achilles Program of ATF is another one. Here we go after the shooters, the armed career criminals in the highest crime precincts in the country. So far we've locked up over 1,000 criminals who, if they were on the streets, would be committing on the average three violent felonies a week.
There are too many gangs in the projects. ATF agents are instructing local officers how to go into the schools, teach the kids that drugs and gangs are bad. We pick schools near housing projects to work on. And one last thing: ATF has made tracing guns recovered on school property a top priority. We want to know who is supplying the guns to the kids. Are they coming from licensed dealers? Are they coming from a black market? And if it's on the black market, did they originate with some particular dealers who do have a license? We started this two months ago, and so far, we've traced several hundred. So, at Treasury, we are doing what we can, and we'll be cooperating with HUD and Justice to make homes safer.
Now, it's my privilege to introduce the Attorney General of the United States Janet Reno, who has taken a strong leadership role in this regard. Thank you.
ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thanks to the Vice President's leadership and to your efforts in the Department of Treasury, we have an unparalleled spirit of cooperation between federal law enforcement agencies. I just commend Secretary Cisneros' efforts in focusing on public housing in terms of how we use administration resources in the wisest way possible to focus on violent crime. As the Secretary of Treasury has pointed out, we can make a difference. Working together with local law enforcement in a true partnership between federal agencies and local law enforcement, we can make more of a difference.
We have got to focus on these violent criminals -- make sure that people are willing to testify against them. And as part of this effort, Secretary Cisneros is taking steps to make sure that HUD participates in witness protection programs, which I think is absolutely essential. But we can do more in terms of making sure the United States Attorney, ATF, the FBI and the housing inspectors are working together to ensure a focus that can make a difference within communities.
At the same time, I think it is imperative that we not forget white-collar fraud. We get caught up with violence and we forget how people are getting ripped off, how the taxpayers are getting ripped off by those people who think they can thumb their nose at us while they cheat us. We're going after them both in terms of criminal and civil efforts to recover funds for the taxpayers to try make people whole and to try to make public housing a safe place.
I have seen public housing projects around this country where citizens come together with HUD leadership, with local police, with federal agencies. And when everybody is working together, when we have involved the citizens of public housing, then we can truly make a difference.
Mr. Secretary, I commend you for this effort. And I'd like now to introduce Dr. Lee Brown, Director.
DR. BROWN: As the President stated in his State of the Union address, much of the violent crime that has terrorized our cities is the result of drug use and drug trafficking. Our new National Drug Control Strategy, which we will release next week, will focus on breaking the cycle of chronic and hard-core drug use that is responsible for much of that crime, particularly in many of our disadvantaged neighborhoods and around public housing and assisted housing communities.
That is why Operation Safe House is integral to our national strategy, and why it is so badly needed. And I, too, commend Secretary Cisneros for taking the leadership in bringing forth this very muchly needed program.
For my more than 30 years in law enforcement I have seen time and time again ordinary citizens can gain the upper hand against drugs and violence when they come together, work together in close cooperation with local police and other law enforcement agencies. Operation Safe Home will give public housing residents some powerful new allies in their struggle to secure themselves that will give them what all Americans want -- a decent place to live, a healthy environment in which to raise their children.
And so I pledge to the Secretary my best efforts, along with those of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to work with him, the Attorney General, and Secretary Bentsen, and other federal agency heads to ensure that Operation Safe Home is indeed a success. And it must succeed because every citizen, including those in public housing, have the right to be safe and secure in their home and in their neighborhood.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm going to leave and then let them take the questions on Operation Safe Home.
Q Have you figured out a way yet to pay for the proposals in the President's -- in the crime bill, the President's proposals, given the budget constraints?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, we have made room in the budget. Now, I'm not going to get into a detailed discussion of the budget because it's not going to be released until next week. But I will say this: We have --
Q For all intents and purposes, it's been made public through various newspapers.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Nice try, but I'm not going to get into a discussion based on the assumption that it's out.
Q Well, given the constraints, how --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I will answer your question. The budget makes room explicitly for the crime bill that we're pushing in the Congress. We expect the toughest, most effective crime bill in the history of the United States of America to be passed in this session of Congress. And the budget explicitly carves out room to pay for it.
Q If you're going to cut, as reported today in The Washington Post, eliminate 115 programs to save $3.5 billion, out of $1.5 trillion budget, isn't that relatively small potatoes compared to what you could cut?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the number of programs eliminated, as you will see when the budget is released, is impressive. What's even more impressive is that the budget deficit, which had been projected for next year to be $300 billion, will be
down 40 percent -- $120 billion lower than what the projections were when we took over.
And President Clinton said 12 months ago that if the Congress would pass our economic plan, we would begin to see more jobs, less unemployment, more economic progress and we would begin to see news stories reporting surprises on the positive side. After 12 years in which the national debt quadrupled, after 12 years in which we had regular stories telling the American people each morning, "Surprise, the budget deficit is much larger than you were told last year or last month or last week," now, we have stories on a regular basis, "Surprise, things are better than you were told they were going to be because the country is moving in the right direction."
The budget deficit is coming down at the same time economics growth is going up. We're not attempting to borrow shortterm prosperity at the expense of terrible economic problems down the road; the country has had enough of that. Instead, we're handling fiscal policy and monetary policy and the management of the federal government in a coordinated responsible way. And we're beginning to see the results, and you will see when the budget comes out and reflection of that progress.
I'm just going to take one more and then I'm going to turn it over to --
Q On today's announcement --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Pardon me?
Q On today's announcement --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. What a novel idea, thank you.
Q Well, all of the cooperation among the different law enforcement agencies is something that's been talked about for years, something that you've been claiming to do for a long time. Most Americans expect that HUD and the Justice Department are supposed to keep public housing safe, that they're supposed to go after those who are committing fraud. Why do you have to make a big announcement to say you're going to do what people already think you're supposed to do anyway?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Because they know it's not being done. They know that it hasn't been done in the past. We have been doing it. We've been concentrating on these pilot projects and the experiments on what works and what doesn't work. And you have heard from these four members of the Cabinet the positive results which now justify a nationwide program which we're calling Operation Safe Home.
The fact is that most Americans ought to be able to assume that Cabinet departments and agencies work together smoothly and that any administration in charge of our government has the ability to focus on a priority and then go after it aggressively and in a coordinated way.
The practical reality has been in the past that the boundary lines between departments and agencies have prevented easy and smooth coordination. We are changing that. In the --
Q Why don't you just do it without making a big announcement about it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me just finish the point briefly. In the National Performance Review announced last year, one of the major themes that we focused on was how to eliminate the barriers to cooperation that have impeded it in the past. Let me just give you one example. When you say, why make a big deal about
it an announce it, A, because it's new; B, because an enormous amount of work has gone into coming up with very creative approaches to having these agencies and departments work together. And C, because we recognize the severity of the problem. We're making it a priority and we're going to do something about it.
Just to take one example -- what Secretary Bentsen said about applying the expertise of the Secret Service in looking at the environment in which residents of public housing units have to live is in one sense a small thing, but it can make a tremendous difference, especially when added to the efforts of Dr. Brown and the Attorney General and Secretary Cisneros all in a coordinated way, focusing on how to address these high crime areas where the residents of public housing are victims.
And it is unacceptable for this kind of situation to continue in America. I mean, this is -- it's not some public relations game where we come and announce something for the sake of announcing it. This is a problem that is life and death for the residents of public housing units. And we're not just announcing something -- we are setting in motion a nationwide program to do something about it.
And one final point before I leave -- these members of the Cabinet not just in this announcement, not just in this program but across the board, have demonstrated an ability to work together smoothly without worrying who gets the credit, without worrying which bureaucracy gets the FTEs or the budget allocation. All of those things are talked about, but put in perspective. They have managed to work out a team relationship that is absolutely extraordinary -- I believe unprecedented -- and this is an example of the kind of cooperative projects that you're seeing underway.
I'm going to turn it over to Secretary Cisneros and the others.
Q Mr. Gore, can I just follow up on that one point? I mean, when they reach a moment when perhaps they don't agree --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q who makes the call?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Purely a hypothetical question. (Laughter.)
Q No, but seriously, I mean, is there -- I mean, does the President get involved?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Of course, of course. This has been the smoothest operating Cabinet that I have ever seen -- really and truly. And they work together on projects like this with selfless dedication. And that's a good line to leave on. (Laughter.)
Q Secretary Cisneros, on this issue of teamwork --you set in motion this series of programs, but the people who are really responsible for administering these changes are the local governments. I mean, are you going to put pressure on these people? And they're also responsible for some of the problems.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: One of the reasons that it's important to announce something like this is because we must communicate to people across the country, especially those who work in local government and who are local law enforcement officials, that we're really doing something in a concerted way that's different.
There are 3,400 housing authorities across the country. So a pilot program here and there really won't touch them unless we're able to say, on this day the Vice President, the Cabinet officers together rolled out a new initiative and we want you to be involved in it. So there's a dimension of trying to reach out across the country to get the word out and that's part of the answer to the question of why would you announce this as a new beginning.
Yes, of course, there will have to be involvement from local police and local housing authorities. We find that when they see that the federal government is making a federal commitment, when they hear, for example, that the FBI or the ATF is involved in their communities, that we get a heightened level of participation.
As I said to you at the outset, I became convinced that this kind of coordinated effort had to be expanded to housing authorities everywhere after I saw what was done collaboratively on a pilot basis in Boston, where the U.S. Attorney in the lead with housing inspectors from HUD and DEA agents was so successful in acting on that Charlestown case. But that was a unique case, and we need to take that all across the country to housing authorities all across America.
Q Do you folks have the resources to take on these added responsibilities?
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Yes, in some cases, it is taking existing resources and pointing them in a targeted way. In other instances, it is asking in the budgets for new funds. In the HUD case, we are looking at some $800 million or so dedicated to this initiative. About $480 million of that is taking existing funds and more clearly putting an anticrime dimension targeting on the use of existing funds.
For example, we spent over a billion dollars in what's called Hope Six Urban Revitalization Demonstration grants to remake big public housing authorities this last year. Well, with this focus, we'll put more emphasis on the security aspects on redevelopment, including security both hardware as well as anticrime and prevention measures. An additional $340 million of new funding is being provided for in the budget that you will see on Monday for these purposes.
Q Secretary Bentsen, while we have you, can I ask you the same question I asked Vice President Gore? In terms of the new budget, you are going to eliminate 115 programs. That sounds impressive, but that's only going to save $3.5 billion, which is a tiny percentage of a budget that is going to be $1.5 trillion. So where are the huge savings? Where is the painful cut?
SECRETARY BENTSEN: If you look at what we did on the budget before to be able to bring it down to the extent we have, we have sure had the painful cuts, and I have listened to them. I must also say, you haven't been here as long as I have, but I still think $3.5 billion is a lot of money. (Laughter.) And when you have cut as much as you have, the incremental cuts become even more difficult to accomplish. And I think we're making remarkable progress in that regard.
Q And on that, Secretary Bentsen, you were in Congress for 12 years. What makes you think -- what makes the administration think that it will be able to achieve any of these cuts since the last 12 years?
SECRETARY BENTSEN: I thought you decided the other 10 years didn't count. (Laughter.)
Q The Reagan years and the Bush years. In those years, Congress blocked almost all their efforts to cut the budget.
SECRETARY BENTSEN: Yeah, but we did it. What we did in '93 proves that we can call on the Congress to do some extraordinary things in the way of cutting back on the deficit and accomplishing that one. And what you've seen in this one is the most major deficit cuts that I've seen in those 22 years and you've seen the results of it in the long-term interest rates -- the lowest they've been in 25 years. And what you're seeing in this economy is a gradual, steady build-up and a reduction in unemployment, and what you've seen is a major increase in capital investment by business to increase productivity; and even though wages went up, labor unit costs stayed constant. And I'm telling you, we're world-competitive.
Q General Reno, could you give us a sense of where we are in the Justice Department in releasing the information on the Vince Foster suicide that the department promised that it would release?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We're trying to work with the special counsel to make sure that it's done consistent with his efforts.
Q Secretary Cisneros, there are the sweeps in housing projects like Chicago, which have locked them down, put up fences, I.D. cards for residents to keep out the nonresidents. Is this the kind of program that you're talking about initiating? Some civil libertarians think that this is too restrictive on the rights of the residents.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Those kinds of initiatives are started at the local level. In this case, the Chicago Housing Authority decided that the best device available to it were these sweeps. We're not going to stipulate that a housing authority police force or a local police force ought to use a particular technique We're not going to stipulate that a housing authority police force or a local police force ought to use any particular technique. But, obviously, those have worked in that case. Where we can be supportive, we will be within constitutional limits -- trying to safeguard the constitutional rights of everyone involved. Those have been upheld.
There are other matters that will have to be addressed in the weeks and months ahead. For example, one of the subjects that I think will come from this effort is a consideration banning guns in public housing settings. Whether that is permissive -- that is to say, we allow on leases housing authorities to ban guns -- or mandatory -- that the federal government would say any federally supported lease for public housing ought to include a ban on guns. These are the kinds of constitutionally-related questions that have to be further explored, but will come from the deliberations that this cooperation makes possible.
Q Attorney General Reno, the Park Police have suggested -- the Park Police have suggested that the White House -- White House Counsel Bernie Nussbaum somehow hampered their investigation into the Vince Foster suicide. Do you have any independent judgment on that?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I would not comment on it, again, because I want to make sure that we work with the special counsel so as to ensure his independence and to make sure that nothing we said or did would conflict with his efforts.
Q Have you seen the Park Police report?
Q Could I ask somebody about -- could I hear some more concrete specifics on what you're talking about with this Safe Home program? I hear you talking about goals. I hear you talking about intelligence sharing back and forth and cooperation among agencies. What are people who live in housing projects, however, going to see? Sending the Secret Service to assess the security of a place, you're not going to wind up having agents standing post at the housing projects.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Let me give you a few specifics and then let me turn it over to the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury and others -- and also Dr. Brown -- to highlight some of the specifics.
Specifics in the case of HUD, additional funding for neighborhood patrols, for resident involvement in anticrime efforts, for physical security as an aspect of the reconstruction and modernization and redevelopment of buildings. Drug elimination assistance, in other words, grants to housing authorities to work specifically on drug-related problems; cooperation with DEA in antidrug efforts, with the FBI. You heard the Attorney General speak to the witness protection program.
The FBI Director came to us and said, "We're having real problem when there are murders in public housing. People do not feel safe. They think the murderers control the places. Therefore, they will not testify. We cannot nail anybody in public housing settings. You have to help us make units available so we can move people who are willing to testify either in that city, a large system, or to another city so that they'd be willing to testify and we could begin to get a handle on the people who actually are doing the murders.
A couple of successful cases like that expanded beyond the few places that they have worked and make -- and encouraging for housing authorities to participate, you'll see a real change in what residents actually feel. The Attorney General would like to pursue this.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would really like to address this, because I have seen it in Miami and I have seen projects such as the Secretary describes. If you involve residents, and if you empower them to participate in the judgments affecting their residence, their development, if you go to local police and form a partnership with local police and the federal agencies with ATF and the FBI working together as, thanks to the Secretary, we've been able to do, figuring out who does what best -- ATF can go after the career criminal and can go after the weapons. The FBI and the DEA can join together to go after the violent traffickers. Local police can focus on juvenile crime. They can do it as a partnership.
But what is so successful is when you involve local residents. That's one of the reasons it's important we get this crime bill passed. But even without the crime bill, if we can form that partnership, if we can involve residents, you see so many actions that benefit the whole development taking place and that is what I am very hopeful will happen here thanks to the Secretary's leadership.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Let me just say also, if you would look, I think you have a packet. In that packet is a handout that is maybe three or four pages of specifics in each of these three areas that we've described: violent crime, white collar in public housing settings and assisted housing, and many of the specific are laid out there of the things that we'll be undertaking.
Q Mr. Secretary, could you address how this money is going distributed? How are you going to pick the housing projects? Are you going to reimburse cities that have already put patrols in
the housing projects? I mean, what is the system that is going to be used to distribute the aid? Obviously, you can't --
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Yes, there are several programs that we have where housing authority apply for assistance as they would for any other public housing program. Presently, we have several which are on a formula basis, dependant upon the size of the authority and the level of need. So both of those, two different methods of delivery will continue to exist.
But we really want to reward places that are making the best effort, doing the most sophisticated job, have the biggest problem, so we really tilt toward reviewing applications and trying to get funding out that way.
Q Is there an overall price tag --
SECRETARY CISNEROS: I'll be happy to visit with you individually. I'll stay for a moment, but I do believe we need to break up the formal session.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:55 A.M. EST