(NewsNation) — With the warmer summer months ahead, when gun violence traditionally rises, cities across America are focusing on getting guns and gang violence off their streets.
Homicides linked to firearms hit the highest rate in 26 years in the United States in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The firearm homicide rate in 2020 was the highest recorded since 1994. However, the increase in firearm homicides was not equally distributed. Young persons, males and Black persons consistently have the highest firearm homicide rates, and these groups experienced the largest increases in 2020,” the CDC said.
In 2021, homicides in major American cities rose 5%, according to the Council on Criminal Justice.
Sgt. Betsy Smith, National Police Association spokesperson, addressed a viewer’s question about crime in America on “Morning in America.”
Martin Towsley, a NewsNation viewer from Illinois, asked a question regarding police recruiting.
Q: Police departments are having a difficult time hiring new recruits. What methods are employed by police departments to recruit new applicants?
Smith said some states, like Florida, offer signing bonuses, and some agencies across the country offer expedited testing.
What used to take a month or so to go through the testing process, due to the complex process of becoming a police officer, which includes a physical test, medical test and psychological test, is not being expedited. However, Smith said it could all be done in two days.
Smith said departments should start recruiting officers like professional athletes, for example.
“One of the things we need to do nationwide is make the profession attractive to young people. We need to make sure that we have police officers in schools right now to not only help keep the peace and safety in the schools but to be role models for young people who are thinking wow, that looks like the career for me. This can’t just be an immediate situation. We’ve got to look toward the future.”
Smith said the most important thing to keep kids out of gangs is families.
“They need families, they need connection. So of course, first, it’s parenting. And then it’s extended family, grandparents, people that they can admire and talk to,” Smith said.
Smith also said today’s youth need to have something to do like a job or sports because kids oftentimes get involved in gangs because they don’t have anything else to do.
“We need to make sure that when we arrest gang members for crime, that we prosecute them, and they go to prison. There was so much talk about guns, but we need to talk about who’s holding the guns who’s using the guns, and we need to use those gun laws on the books to prosecute and imprison people using guns for violent crimes,” Smith said.
Watch the full interview in the media player above.