WATCH: Sen. Ossoff urges FBI director to crack down on violent crime in Georgia

Washington, D.C – U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff continues his work to combat violent crime in Georgia.

Yesterday, in a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, Senator Ossoff urged FBI Director Christopher Wray to address the violent crime crisis in Georgia and across the country and called on the FBI to increase its crime prevention and drug deterrence efforts in Georgia’s communities.

Senator Ossoff also called on Director Wray to continue to work with Georgia’s local law enforcement agencies to strengthen these efforts.

“What more can the FBI do and what more can you do to protect fearful communities in Georgia?” Sen. Ossoff asked Director Wray. “Will you continue to work with local law enforcement in Georgia to address the violent crimes that victimize innocent citizens?”

Click here to view Senator Ossoff’s line of questioning:

Below is a transcript of the exchange:

IT IS. OSSOFF: “Thank you to our panelists for your service to the country and in national defense and public safety. Director Wray, it is always a pleasure to see a fellow Georgian, and I also thank you for your continued service.

“Each time we have operated in an environment like this, I have asked you to assess the causes of increased violent crime in Georgia and across the country.

“According to FBI data, violent crime increased from 2020 to 2021. Could you please provide the committee with an updated assessment of what is driving this dynamic?

DIRECTOR CHRISTOPHER WRAY: “So there are many things that are driving the violent crime crisis in this country, in Georgia and elsewhere. There are a few things. Firstly, I would say that the traditional drivers are all there. Drugs, illegal arms trade, gangs, socio-economic factors. So they are all still there. But more than that, we are seeing – and I hear this again and again from chiefs and sheriffs and from our own agents – an alarming increase in the number of violent youth. It often progresses from car thefts to even worse violence. And that is a real challenge for the legal system because we are not designed to effectively combat crimes committed by minors.

“We are not seeing everywhere, but in many places, that far too many dangerous criminals are returning to the streets. And the only thing more frustrating for the hard-working men of law enforcement than having to arrest someone who should have been behind bars is having to arrest the same person over and over again. And that is a product of many things. It could be backlogs, it could be certain law enforcement practices, certain types of bail practices, and of course the juvenile matter that I mentioned. So those are some of the things that drive it.

“Especially in Georgia, I feel almost every week that our field office in Atlanta is running some sort of operation seizing drugs, weapons, cash, whether it’s meth or fentanyl. So they’re experiencing a lot of the same things that we’re seeing nationally. Certainly neighborhood gangs are a major phenomenon in our home state.

“We also see, I would add, two other things that are a little reminiscent of Georgia. One of these is young people who did not return to school after contracting COVID. And that can contribute to the youth effect. And we see, you know, violent offenders who are either arrested or incarcerated because they’re serving a sentence, who, despite the best efforts of correctional officers, still have access to their cell phones and are still able to participate in the activity, continue to engage in the violent activity participate.

“So those are some of the things. I suspect one last, alarming phenomenon of switches that convert otherwise legal weapons into fully automatic weapons, thereby increasing the potential for violence.

IT IS. OSSOFF: “Thank you, Director Wray. You have a new SAC in your Atlanta office and welcomed her upon her arrival. I wish her and her team all the best. What more can the FBI do and what more can you do to protect fearful communities in Georgia? Who is afraid of a car theft? Or attack? Or a serious bodily injury on the sidewalk or in a mall? What are you doing and what else can you do? And will you continue to work with local law enforcement in Georgia to address the violent crimes that victimize innocent citizens?

DIRECTOR WRAY: “Violent crimes are the FBI’s top priority. As I said in my answer to a previous question, I still believe that this is still where we allocate the most human resources. We have Safe Streets Task Forces that focus on gang violence. We have other types of violent crime task forces that allow all of us to bring together what the FBI is dealing with with state and local partners who participate in those task forces. We conduct active shooter training and the like to help the community better protect themselves.

“Nearly half of our lab’s forensic work is in support of violent crime cases, often for our local partners across the state. Senator Scott and I talked about the hotline we have in West Virginia, where we prioritize relaying threats to life to state and local partners on the violent crime side.

“So there’s a whole bunch of things that we do, but that remains the most important thing for me and my team, and when I talk to chiefs and sheriffs, that’s always the first topic that we talk about in the final topic conversation because it is so much on everyone’s lips.”

IT IS. OSSOFF: “Thank you, Director.”