President’s ‘favorite deputy attorney general’ kicks off Project Safe Neighborhoods conference

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The man who appointed a special counsel to investigate alleged ties between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign spoke to hundreds of law enforcement leaders Wednesday.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's remarks focused on efforts to reduce violent crime.

Rosenstein traveled to Kansas City to kick off the Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference. The event is where law enforcement officials learn about new strategies and techniques for fighting crime.

Rosenstein credits innovations, like new crime gun intelligence centers, for helping stop a three-year surge in violent crime statistics.

Last year, he says federal prosecutors filed 15,000 criminal charges of federal firearms violations, a new record that's 15 percent more than the previous high.

He says nationally, crime is falling, and in previewing the President's visit later this week, he made only one veiled reference to the ongoing special counsel Russia investigation.

"I regret that I won't be here," Rosenstein said. "In fact there's no place I'd rather be than in the audience with all of you. I'm headed straight back to Washington. But you let the President know that his favorite deputy attorney general was here."

The audience responded with laughter and applause.

Rosenstein told the law enforcement community that the justice department supports predictive policing strategies, where data is analyzed so police can anticipate and disrupt criminal activity before it happens.

He compared it to America's war on terrorism and claims we can be just as effective intervening to prevent violent crime.

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who now oversees the special counsel probe, will speak to the group Thursday, with President Trump scheduled to thank law enforcement for their efforts on Friday.