U.S. attorney general unveils 12-city partnership to fight crime

By Ian Simpson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has launched a 12-city partnership to combat spikes in violent crime as part of President Donald Trump's vow to support law enforcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday. The program features a three-year initiative to help coordinate crime-fighting efforts among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors, Sessions said in unveiling the new National Public Safety Partnership. Trump, a Republican, made tough-on-crime rhetoric a focus of his 2016 campaign. The new program stems from an executive order he signed in February mandating that the Justice Department provide support for local law enforcement. "We have a duty to make sure our country does not abandon all the progress we have made against crime over the past few decades," Sessions said at a national meeting of law enforcement officials. His remarks were released by the Justice Department. Sessions did not disclose any new funding for the initiative, which will focus on gun crime, drug trafficking and gang violence. The federal government will provide help in areas that include training, crime analysis, gun violence, community engagement and investigations. A spike in violent crime in 2015 continued into the first half of last year, with big cities seeing an average increase in murders of almost 22 percent compared with the same period the year before, Sessions said. The dozen cities chosen for the program are Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis; Memphis, Tennessee; Toledo, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Buffalo, New York; Cincinnati; Houston; Jackson, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; Lansing, Michigan; and Springfield, Illinois. Sessions said more communities could be announced for the partnership this year. The 12 cities were picked because they have levels of violence well above the national average and are ready to receive training and aid, Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley said. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials also helped choose them, he said. Chicago and nine other cities that were in a pilot program called the Violence Reduction Network will also take part in the initiative. Trump had vowed in January to bring federal intervention to bear to quell gun violence in Chicago. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker)