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October 16, 2006

A great response to the recent up-tick in violent crime

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave this speech today to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.  His speech includes an interesting and nuanced discussion of crime rates and responses thereto.  Here is a (big) snippet:

Between 2000 and 2005, the violent crime victimization rate fell by 24 percent — which is good news, proof positive that your work is making a difference.  Likewise, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the overall crime rate of 3,899 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants is the lowest crime rate measured by the UCR in more than 30 years.

But even in light of good news on crime rates, we hear from you that gangs, juvenile crime, and gun violence are persistent problems.  And I know we are all concerned that the FBI's Uniform Crime Report shows a 2005 national violent crime rate that is slightly higher than the record-low rate in 2004.  Although the 2005 rate was still significantly lower than it was in 2002, 2001, 2000 and every other year since 1977 … even a small up-tick in violent crime cannot be ignored, especially when we have made such great progress.  In addition we have recent anecdotal reports that even in this year there may be a rise in violent crime in some areas.

We need to find out why this is happening, and if there is an upward trend in violent crime, what we can do to reverse that trend in those cities. And we need to do it together, by pulling together, as a law-enforcement team, to get the job done...

Today's challenge is taking on violent crime in the places where we see increases, and we will take on that challenge together.  We know that the violent crime story is not uniform across the country.  We also know that the problem is a complicated one, and we need to figure out the WHY behind the numbers — whether the story is good or bad.  That's why I'm announcing, today, what the Justice Department will do to respond to this challenge: The Initiative for Safer Communities.

We will focus on three "I"s:

  • Investigate: We'll examine the problems and dig deep to find their roots and what feeds them.
  • Identify: We'll find and highlight what works, what keeps cities safer.
  • Finally, Implement: With best practices and innovative answers having been gathered, localities will be able to learn from each other and choose from a basket of solutions to apply in their cities.

I am very encouraged by this thoughtful response to the recent up-tick in violent crime.  The "Initiative for Safer Communities" sounds like the kind of evidence-based policy response that all fans of good government should want to endorse (like folks involved in NASC).  Notably, the speech did not suggest any new "get-tough" sentencing initiative, which has often been a classic first-cut reaction to crime concerns in modern eras.   I wonder how the folks at Corrections Sentencing will react.

October 16, 2006 at 06:15 PM | Permalink


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First, you need to be sure you are locking up the people you are afraid of, instead of the people you are just mad at. The prisons are full beyond capacity of non-violent drug offenders, there is no room for the violent offenders, because these drug offenders are doing life sentences. The time to pay the cost of incarceration of young men for 20 years or more is coming as they are released as 40 year old teen-agers, with no training and no chance to have learned the responsibility of growing into young adults. The Attorney General and Congress will soon see the result of a no parole type system, that punished too severely and the chickens will be home to roost.

Posted by: Barry Ward | Oct 16, 2006 8:52:55 PM

I hope someday Congress will realize what they have done with mandatory sentencing. There are so many people in prison that never received a fair trial and have just pleaded guilty under the psychological pressure of the prosecution. Reading all about it in my criminal law books. Law Student.

I hope judges are reading this excellent blog on sentencing and change their minds like Judge Sim did when he finally realized that Mr. Olis's sentence was way out of line.

Posted by: | Oct 16, 2006 11:23:32 PM

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