Monday, May 21, 2007

The next crime wave?

Crime rises as police fight other threats

"We're at a tipping point in violent crime in many cities," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based law enforcement think tank that released data in March showing the murder rate rising by more than 10 percent in dozens of big U.S. cities since 2004.

"What we're seeing over the past 24 months is a new volatility. In some big cities violent crime and murder are up. Some are seeing a reduction. It's a dramatic shift from the past 10 years when it was mostly all decreases," he said.

Criminologists are worried. Federal Bureau of Investigation data shows murders and shootings hitting smaller cities and states with little experience of serious urban violence. The last similar period of volatility was right before the big crime wave of the 1980s and 1990s.

Explanations vary -- from softer gun laws to budget cuts, fewer police on the beat, more people in poverty, expanding gang violence and simple complacency. But many blame a national preoccupation with potential threats from overseas since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

"Since 9/11, police obligations have increased substantially above and beyond decreasing street crime," Jens Ludwig, a criminal justice expert at Georgetown University.

"So even if police resources were held constant, there is this growing obligation on their part, so the resources available to fight street crime have gone down."

I normally don't link to these types of stories--panic, panic, panic now!--but I found the notion that Homeland Security is making us less secure to be... well, a dose of common sense.