JUDY WOODRUFF: A new issue has pushed its way onto President Biden's agenda tonight, the current rise in violent crime, including homicides, in the United States, especially crime involving guns. He laid out his proposals today for what to do about it. White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Today at the White House, President Biden called the uptick in gun violence in America unacceptable.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: We need to keep building on the gun violence and crime prevention strategy we're laying out today. Folks, this shouldn't be a red or blue issue. It's an American issue. We're not changing the Constitution. We're enforcing it, being reasonable. We're taking on the bad actors doing bad and dangerous things in our communities and our country.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The president announced a five-part plan. It is aimed at tackling gun violence and other violent crimes by using funds from the American Rescue Plan. Some of the initiatives in the plan include giving money to cities to hire more law enforcement officials including past pre-pandemic levels, buy new equipment and technology for police departments, help formerly incarcerated individuals reenter society, use resources to hold gun dealers accountable, and invest in community violence intervention programs. Over the past year, major cities, such as New York City, have seen a spike in violent crime, including shootings.
PAT WONG, New York City: Every time you turn on the news, there's killings, nothing but killings, or someone getting beaten up or someone getting shot.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The New York Times reported that homicide rates in large cities across the U.S. were up by more than 30 percent, on average, last year, are rising significantly again this year. Meanwhile, ahead of the midterm elections, conservatives are capitalizing on this issue and ramping up pressure on Democrats.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It is impossible to ignore that these terrible trends are coming precisely as so-called progressives have decided it's time to denounce and defund local law enforcement.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: That includes former President Donald Trump, who spoke at North Carolina's Republican Convention earlier this month.
DONALD TRUMP, Former President of the United States: Look at what's happening where they're defunding the police.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: President Biden has said over and over again that he does not support defunding the police. In the meantime, the Biden administration's new crime plan has some activists concerned about increasing tension between police and communities of color, especially after last year's murder of George Floyd. They're also worried a crackdown on crime may lead to even more mass incarceration.
JOE BIDEN: They must be taken off the street.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: That's what happened after the 1994 crime bill, which then Senator Biden supported. White House officials, though, insist that will not happen this time around. The 1994 law imposed harsher federal prison terms including mandatory sentencing. And it provided funding for states to build more prisons and increase policing. The legislation has been criticized for its contributions to mass incarceration targeting Black Americans. As the Biden administration lays out their plan to curb shootings and homicides, some activists are sounding the alarm about the unintended consequences. But White House officials tell the "NewsHour" President Biden is not focused on arresting his way out of this problem. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.