Rep. Lucy McBath Cosponsors VICTIM Act

Legislation would improve the ability of law enforcement to solve gun crimes and ensure justice

October 28, 2021

Washington, D.C. — Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-06) signed on as an original cosponsor to the Violent Incident Clearance and Technological Investigative Methods (VICTIM) Act , a bill introduced today by Rep. Val Demings (FL-10), a former 27-year police officer and Chief of the Orlando Police Department. The legislation would establish a Department of Justice grant program to hire, train, and retain detectives and victim services personnel to investigate shootings and support victims. The legislation has strong support from professional law enforcement researchers and organizations (see quotes below). Joining McBath as original co-sponsors are Reps. Dwight Evans (PA-03), Tom O'Halleran (AZ-01), Robin Kelly (IL-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03).

“We must ensure our law enforcement have the tools they need to solve violent crime,” said Rep. McBath. “I am proud to join Rep. Demings to introduce a bill that will help hire detectives, train personnel, and address the needs of victims and family members as we continue our work to keep communities safe.”    

“Real life isn’t like CSI: Miami. I saw as a law enforcement officer, detective, and chief of police that gun crimes are oftentimes difficult to investigate and solve,” said Rep. Demings. “Simply put, many agencies lack the resources they need to bring justice to these cases and closure for families. Half of gun murders in the United States go unsolved, and victims are often left with no justice and little support. This legislation would inject critical new funding into America’s law enforcement agencies to hire and train detectives and specialists specifically committed to investigate unsolved crimes, comfort victims, and bring the guilty to justice.

“I vividly recall as a law enforcement officer standing over the bodies of young Floridians who had been victims of gun crimes, knowing that their families would soon receive devastating news. Today, the murder rate is rising, and more and more cases go unsolved. Unsolved gun crimes are unacceptable for the victims and their families, and leaving violent criminals on the streets is unacceptable for the communities we are trying to protect. We can do better, and this legislation will give our law enforcement agencies the resources they need to track down violent criminals and keep Floridians safe.”

“Helping our state and local police solve more fatal and non-fatal shooting cases would be a huge win for public safety in Philadelphia and across the country – district attorneys can’t bring cases that don’t reach them, so this would help make our neighborhoods safer,” said Rep. Evans. “As someone who has pushed for help for victims of gun violence, I’m also very pleased that this bill would provide victims and family members with mental health resources and assistance with shelter, wage, and relocation costs. I’m proud to co-lead this much-needed legislation with Rep. Demings – her long experience in law enforcement has been so vital in Congress.”    

“As a young officer working in Chicago, I had to knock on the doors of too many mothers and tell them their child had been lost to an act of senseless violence,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “Through targeted funding increases for our hardworking local and tribal police departments, this bill will help to hire, train, and keep good detectives and victim services workers to better provide the needed resources to catch criminals. In short, our legislation will help bring closure to families and justice to courtrooms.”

“Gun violence and homicide rates are on the rise, but the percentage of cases solved by law enforcement agencies is falling,” said Rep. Kelly. “Communities of color are disproportionately represented in cases that go unsolved, which is unjust and diminishes trust between communities of color and the police. We must ensure that law enforcement agencies have the resources they need to solve crimes and bring justice to victims and their families. Additionally, we need to do more to support victims and their families as they rebuild their lives after being impacted by gun violence. The VICTIM Act will do just that by providing victims and family members with mental health resources and assistance with shelter, lost wages and relocation costs. I am proud to be introducing this legislation with Rep. Demings, a former police chief, to help law enforcement solve crimes and improve outcomes for victims.”

“Last year, we saw an increase in homicides and gun-related crime all across the U.S. – including in Iowa,” said Rep. Axne. “In fact, Iowa saw an 80% jump in homicides in 2020 – a statistic that should frankly stop any Iowan in their tracks. I know our police departments are working around the clock to solve these crimes, and it’s critical that they have the resources they need to keep our communities safe and support the families affected. Our legislation, the VICTIM Act, would directly help our law enforcement improve public safety while also helping victims and their families.”

“The VICTIM Act is an example of criminal justice reform that should appeal to people all over the political spectrum,” said Greg Newburn, Director of Criminal Justice for the Niskanen Center. “The VICTIM Act will help law enforcement deliver justice, and help victims rebuild their lives after tragedy. We are excited to see a common-sense response to the entrenched violence that threatens so many American communities. The VICTIM Act is a smart and reasonable solution to this difficult problem, and will help to make our communities more safe through important investments in law enforcement, and we're proud to work with Rep. Demings on this important investment in safety."

“This bill provides crucial support for law enforcement efforts to provide justice for victims and solve unclosed cases,” said Jim Burch, President of the National Police Foundation. “Rep. Demings’ legislation is supported by science and best practice. The National Police Foundation applauds Congresswoman Demings’ leadership and support for evidence-based best practices that will keep the public safe and reduce crime.”

“The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) applauds the continued efforts of Congresswoman Val Demings in supporting and strengthening the law enforcement profession,” said Frederick L. Thomas, National President of The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. “It is our opinion that this legislation will help increase the clearance rates of cases throughout the nation.”

“Nearly every major city in America is experiencing a rise in violent crime,” said Chief Jeri Williams, President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “The VICTIM Act will help law enforcement agencies address staffing challenges, enhance investigative and evidence processing capabilities and technology, and provide services to victims and their families. The MCCA is proud to support this bill and thanks Rep. Demings for her continued leadership and support for our brave law enforcement officers.”

“Our nation’s cities and communities are experiencing a historic rise in violent crime, “said Bill Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations. “Murders and non-fatal shootings are going unresolved at higher rates as law enforcement agencies do not have the officers and resources to dedicate to improving clearance rates for these horrendous crimes. The VICTIM Act will help address this issue by supplying much needed grant funding to agencies to fill, replenish, and train their detective and homicide personnel. Through this legislation, law enforcement will be able to focus on solving these violent crimes that have such a detrimental impact on our communities and improve the services that they render to victims. We support the VICTIM Act and thank Congresswoman Demings for her leadership on this issue.”

“FBI statistics show that in 2020, violent crime clearance rates, particularly for fatal and nonfatal shootings, fell to historic lows,” said Thomas Abt, Chair of its Violent Crime Working Group for the Council on Criminal Justice. “The human, social, and economic toll of these unsolved crimes is devastating. We must increase clearance rates to build public trust in law enforcement and bring justice to families and communities.”

In 2020, the United States saw the biggest rise in murder since the start of national record-keeping in 1960. 21,570 people were murdered in the United States in 2020—the most since 1995—a 29.4% increase over 2019. Additionally, the FBI estimates that 77% of all murders in the United States in 2020 were via firearms. That is the highest share on record and the most of any year on record except 1993. At the same time that the murder rate rose, the clearance rate for murders fell significantly, from 61.4% in 2019, to 54.4% in 2020. In cities with a population above 250,000, the rate was even more dramatic, falling from 57.6% in 2019 to 47.3% in 2020.

The VICTIM Act would establish a grant program at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide resources to State, Tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to assist them improve their clearance rates for homicides and non-fatal shootings. Specifically, the grants provided by the VICTIM Act would be used to:

  • hire and retain detectives to investigate homicide and non-fatal shootings;
  • acquire resources for processing evidence, including the hiring of additional personnel;
  • hire personnel trained to analyze criminal intelligence and crime trends;
  • train detectives and evidence processing personnel in effective procedures and techniques; and
  • ensure victim services are sufficiently staffed, funded, and trained.

Recipients of the grants would be required to report to the DOJ information regarding how the money was spent and how it affected clearance rates for homicides and non-fatal shootings. The National Institute of Justice will periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the policies and procedures implemented by the grantees to improve clearance rates and report to Congress on its conclusions. For full text of the bill, click here. For a fact sheet on the bill, click here.