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William Bratton, chairman of Altergrity Risk International Inc. and former head of the New York and Los Angeles police departments, speaks at Wired magazine's "Disruptive by Design" business conference in New York, U.S., on Monday, June 14, 2010. Industry leaders discussed how they respond to change and use it to their advantage. Photographer: Peter Foley *** Local Caption *** / Peter Foley Bloomberg

WASHINGTON - The former police chief who oversaw big drops in crime in New York and Los Angeles says citizenship for illegal immigrants and better security at the border are both important to reducing crime.

Bill Bratton told USA TODAY on Wednesday that he is encouraged by the proposals being floated in Washington about how to handle illegal immigration and what to do about the illegal immigrants already here.

Bratton made his remarks before a White House meeting with representatives from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriff's Association and individual chiefs and sheriffs. His meeting comes as President Obama continues a push to make changes in immigration laws that would allow about 11 million illegal immigrants a way to become U.S. citizens.

Bratton, vice chairman of the Department of Homeland Security's Advisory Council, said providing a so-called pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants would help reduce crime in areas where there is a high concentration of illegal immigrants. He said criminals can thrive in an environment where illegal immigrants are scared to report crimes out of fear that going to police could result in a deportation to their home country.

Mark Spencer, a 25-year police officer with the Phoenix Police Department and the former head of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, says granting illegal immigrants citizenship sends a bad message.

"To those front-line officers, it really rubs them the wrong way when bad behavior is rewarded. And certainly, citizenship is rewarding bad behavior," said Spencer, who was not part of Wednesday's meeting.

Bratton said that further securing the country's southwest border with Mexico is important to reducing crime. He said the Obama administration has made significant progress slowing illegal immigration along the border, but he understands why many Americans worry about the constant threat of violence as people illegally cross into the country.

"They have justifiable concerns," he said. "Some of them live on very large ranges, in isolation. Their fears are real. That fear level is something that I think their congressional representatives are listening to and is something that has to be responded to."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Ex-police chief offers immigration advice to cut crime

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