WASHINGTON - The Bush administration offered Thursday to pump $200 million into U.S. cities next year to combat violent crime, winning tepid support from mayors who want to see more cops on the street.

The money, announced by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, mostly targets crime-fighting programs across regions -- meaning it likely won't cover the cost of hiring new police officers.

"I know that many of your communities continue to face challenges," Mukasey told the U.S. Conference of Mayors in a Thursday morning speech. He won light applause in announcing the new money, which will be part of the Justice Department's 2009 budget request.

Mukasey also rapped U.S. Sentencing Commission plans to allow about 19,500 federal prison inmates to seek reductions in their crack cocaine sentences. He said many of the inmates were gang members who could threaten public safety if released sooner than expected.

Mayors have long called for more help from Washington in combating crime, and deride budget cuts that ended funding for hiring more cops.

The conference's president, Mayor Doug Palmer of Trenton, N.J., called the new dollars "a start" but said "certainly more is necessary."

ASSOCIATED PRESS