White House says there are a 'range of reasons' for increase in crime stemming from COVID pandemic

White House says they are helping curb crime as nationwide crime wave continues

Lt. Randy Sutton says he has been impressed with the ‘rhetoric’ coming out of the White House, but ‘hasn’t seen much as far as action goes’

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that there are a “range of reasons” for the increase in crime and smash-and-grab robberies in cities across the country, dodging a question on whether “soft on crime” policies are to blame.

Smash-and-grab looters have been targeting stores across the nation in recent weeks, robbing retailers of thousands of dollars in merchandise in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New York, and Minneapolis.

During a White House briefing Monday, Psaki was asked whether she thought cities were experiencing an increase in crime due to its prosecutors and their “soft on crime” approach.

“I would say, we have seen, I’m not going to attribute the reasoning from here,” Psaki said. “What I will tell you is we have seen an increase in crime over the course of the pandemic. There are a range of reasons for that.”

Psaki, though, said the White House is focused on “what we can do to address it.”

“The president has proposed additional funding in the budget to make sure local police departments and cops have the funding they need,” Psaki said. “We also have worked directly with police departments in areas where they are seeing the highest impact of the crime, the retail theft—which we have great concern about.”

She added: “That’s what our focus is on currently — is action and doing what we can to make sure the funding is out there to the communities that need it the most.”

Psaki was pressed further on specific incidents of criminals released from prison back to the streets without prosecution—such as the man who allegedly burned down the Fox News “All American Christmas” tree in New York City last week—and whether President Biden felt that was “good governing.”

“I think I’ve spoken to the president’s concerns about retail theft,” Psaki said. “If you have specific—and the actions taken for specific cases, I would point to the local police departments or the Department of Justice.”

Craig Tamanaha, 49, was arrested last Wednesday in connection with the alleged torching of a Christmas tree outside the Fox News and News Corp headquarters in New York City. Tamanaha was freed on no bail last week.

Investigators said the 50-foot artificial tree was set ablaze using a burning piece of cardboard, the New York Post reported. The fire’s damage was estimated to cost about $500,000.

The arson and other charges Tamanaha was facing – including criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and criminal trespass — were considered misdemeanors, not requiring a bail payment under New York City’s liberal bail laws, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bayley told the New York Post.

“One of the root reasons of crime in communities is guns and gun violence, and we’ve seen that statistically around the country,” Psaki said last week, adding that a “root cause in a lot of communities is the pandemic.”

A White House official told Fox News earlier this month that the administration is monitoring reports of looting and said that officials have seen “some of the disturbing videos documenting these thefts.”

“This sort of conduct is absolutely unacceptable, and we’re using every resource at our disposal to support local authorities and crack down on organized retail theft,” the official said.

The official added that the Justice Department, the FBI, and federal law enforcement have been in contact with jurisdictions where this has happened to offer assistance in investigations.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice announced recently that San Francisco and Los Angeles – where a number of high-profile retail thefts have happened – will get funding to hire 50 and 20 more police officers, respectively, through the $140 million COPS program the president has championed, the official said.

Fox News’ Peter Doocy contributed to this report. 

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