Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

How the US fails to address crime

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Things are improving, but still the US has a long way to go to show by actions that it’s really interested in reducing crime.

The LA Times recently ran an article that told how the police have finally begun to co-operate with ex-gang members to reduce retaliatory murders among gangs—and it’s working:

Los Angeles has seen a significant decline in homicides so far this year — including a 50% drop in killings in some South L.A. neighborhoods, such as Watts — as police embarked on a new strategy involving asking ex-gang members to help prevent violence.

And Bob Herbert notes other improvements in his column today—along with some indications that more improvement is needed:

• Since Sept. 11, 2001, when the nation’s attention understandably turned to the threat of terrorism, nearly 100,000 people — men, women and children — have been murdered in the U.S.

Each year hundreds of thousands of criminals, having served their terms, are released into communities with very few jobs and almost no support services for ex-offenders. These are people with advanced degrees in criminality. In just the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, approximately 600,000 offenders will have been released.

The F.B.I. reported this week that violent crime rose in the U.S. in 2006 for the second year in a row. The more thoughtful members of local law enforcement already knew that from their own careful studies.

On Wednesday, dozens of police chiefs from around the country met in Chicago to assess the crime trends that have developed since the beginning of this year.

They are trying to understand why there has been a surge in homicides in big cities in Florida, and in Baltimore, Washington, and Oakland, Calif., at the same time that there have been substantial decreases in places like Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis, Sacramento and Nashville.

In an echo of the now-famous Compstat system, their goal is to analyze national crime data with an eye toward developing preventive strategies and squelching emerging crime trends before they spin out of control. If Los Angeles is doing something that Baltimore could benefit from, that information should be shared.

This is not sexy stuff, and it doesn’t get a lot of public attention. But it saves lives.

The Chicago gathering was sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of top law enforcement officials from some of the largest departments and agencies in the country. The forum has been sounding the alarm for some time about the spike in violent crime, and correctly noted early on that the trend was not uniform.

“Some cities are showing dramatic increases and some are showing dramatic decreases,” said Chuck Wexler, the forum’s executive director. “We’re almost like epidemiologists. We’re trying to figure out why.”

Gangs and guns are huge problems. So are armed juveniles who have exhibited a startling willingness to kill over virtually any slight, or during street-corner holdups in which electronic devices like iPods and cellphones are prized items.

Some cities are suffering from a shortage of police officers (they’re expensive) and the withdrawal of federal support for anti-crime initiatives.

As crime increases, police officers become more engaged, which means they become more vulnerable. So far this year, 138 police officers have died in the line of duty, a 38 percent increase over the same period in 2006.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 10:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Tagged with ,

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