Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Violent Crime Increases - How It Happened And Why It Will Continue

Recently, the Associated Press reported that violent crime is up in the United States for the first time in 5 years. Taken from data that the FBI compiled from over 12,000 law enforcement agencies, the report indicates that murders rose 4.8%, robberies 4.5 percent and aggravated assaults 1.9 percent in 2005. Overall, violent crimes increased 2.5%.

This has not been the trend in recent years. Between 1973 and 1993 Bureau of Justice Statistics show the national violent crime rate to be not less than 40 victims per thousand people over the age of 12. Two years into the Clinton presidency, it reaached a whopping 51.2 victims/1000. Then something interesting happened, it started to decrease. It was small at first, but by the time President Clinton left office in January of 2001, the rate had dropped to 27.4 victims/1000!

What accounted for such a dramatic decrease? I would argue good policy.

In 1994, President Clinton signed into law the "Federal Violent Crime Control Act" which created the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) program. COPS was designed to add 100,000 community based police officers to the roles by providing grant based funding to local law enforcement agencies. It also supported many crime prevention programs. By the spring of 1999 it was ahead of schedule and under budget. Another hallmark of the Act was the ban on the manufacturing and importing of 19 different types of assault weapons. Then there was the Brady Bill which created a five day waiting period before a handgun could be purchased. Is it any wonder that things got better?

Fast forward to the Bush Administration

Within months of taking office, President Bush submitted a budget to Congress that proposed cutting COPS by 17%. The following year an even more drastic cut of 80% was proposed. While Congress did a reasonable job preserving some of the funding, it was nowhere near what was available during the Clinton years. In fact it decreased by almost 40%. Additionally, in 2004, the President and Congress let the ban on assault weapons lapse.

The Net Result?

Just as violent crime remained higher during the first years of the Clinton administration, it decreased during the first years under Bush. Why? Because it takes awhile for the results of an administrations policies to take effect. In short, the crime rates under the first few years of Clinton really belong to Bush 1, and the rates under the first few years of Bush II really belong to Clinton.

When viewed in this context, it becomes fairly apparent that last years increase in crime is not only the result of failed Republican crime policies, but that it is just the beginning of a trend that is likely to continue into the next administration.


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