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New Report on Gun Violence in Public Housing

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 16, 2000

February 16, 2000

At his press conference today, President Clinton will announce that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will release the first-ever comprehensive analysis of gun-related violence at public housing. The report shows that, consistent with national crime trends, crime has decreased in public housing since 1993 -- sometimes at a greater rate than in surrounding communities. Despite reductions in crime and gun violence, people who receive housing assistance remain twice as likely to be victims of gun violence. Nearly one person is killed each day by gunfire in the nationís largest 100 public housing communities. To help address this problem, the President will call upon Congress to pass stronger gun laws this year, and to enact both his $280 million national gun enforcement initiative and HUDís $30 million gun violence reduction initiative.

THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF GUN VIOLENCE IN PUBLIC HOUSING EVER RELEASED. More than 2.6 million residents live in public and assisted housing, including one million children and 360,000 elderly residents. Todayís report, "In the Crossfire: The Impact of Gun Violence on Public Housing Communities," examines the scope and magnitude of gun-related violence in public housing, as well as the costs associated with gun violence -- both the financial costs of administering effective security measures, and the social costs borne by residents. Based on newly available data from both HUD and the Justice Departmentís Bureau of Justice Statistics, the reportís key findings include:

  • Similar to crime trends across the nation, many public housing authorities have experienced significant reductions in crime. Some housing authorities have experienced even greater reduction in crime rates than in the cities in which they are located: of 55 housing authorities analyzed in the report, two-thirds found a reduction in their crime rate, and about half (28) had their crime rate decline faster than their surrounding municipality. Despite this progress, in 1998, there were an estimated 360 gun-related homicides, an average of nearly one per day, in the nationís 100 largest public housing authorities.
  • Persons receiving housing assistance are over twice as likely to be victims of gun violence. Based on data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, the report shows that between 1995 and 1997, the rate of victimization for residents of public and assisted housing was 10 per 1,000 persons, as compared to 4 per 1,000 for persons not receiving housing assistance. There is a strong correlation between income and violent crime victimization; thus, the low-income population in public housing is especially vulnerable to gun violence.
  • Gun violence poses a threat to public housing residents in cities of all sizes, with the highest gun violence rates for those in mid-sized metropolitan areas. Public housing residents in metro areas with less than 100,000 total population experienced a gun victimization rate of 14 per 1,000; public housing residents in metro areas with populations of 1,000,000 or more had the lowest rate of 11 per 1,000; and residents in mid-sized metro areas with populations between 100,000 and 499,000 had the highest rate of 27 per 1,000.
  • The damage imposed by gun violence goes beyond the lives lost and injuries inflicted. In large public housing communities, one in five residents reported feeling unsafe in their neighborhood, a higher rate than the general population.
  • Public housing authorities have spent over $4 billion on crime reduction and prevention efforts since 1990. By 1998, annual housing authority expenditures for safety and security measures, including additional police officers, tenant patrols, fencing, lighting, security cameras, had grown to well over $500 million per year.
WORKING TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE IN PUBLIC HOUSING. To address the problem of gun violence, both criminal and accidental, in our nationís public housing and communities, the Presidentís FY 2001 budget includes a $30 million Community Gun Safety and Violence Reduction Initiative. This HUD initiative will fund: 1) improved local crime analysis, such as crime mapping that uses Geographic Information Systems technology, to enable local responses targeted to at-risk areas; 2) education and outreach initiatives using a variety of media to educate the public and housing residents of the risks posed by firearms; and 3) innovative performance-based local crime reduction and prevention strategies.

FIGHTING FOR PASSAGE OF COMMON SENSE GUN LEGISLATION AND THE MOST AGGRESSIVE FIREARMS ENFORCEMENT INITIATIVE IN HISTORY. The President will highlight additional proposals to keep guns out of the wrong hands, including the Administrationís proposal to create a state-based licensing system for all handgun purchasers to ensure that all buyers have passed a background check and know how to safely handle and store their gun. In addition, the President will emphasize that it is long past time for Congress to pass common-sense gun measures to close the gun show loophole, ban the importation of large capacity ammunition clips, and require child safety locks for handguns. And finally, the President will urge enactment of his unprecedented $280 million gun enforcement initiative to hire 500 new ATF agents and inspectors, over 1,000 new federal, state and local gun prosecutors, and fund comprehensive crime gun tracing and increased ballistics testing to catch and prosecute more gun criminals.

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