Perhaps because we have looked to the root causes, have extended some sympathy for the conditions that breed crime, we Democrats have earned a reputation as being Soft on Crime.
But the fact is that it was a Democratic President, Bill Clinton, who presided over the first DECREASE in violent crime in the last decades of the twentieth century.
Under Reagan, under Bush I, crime was up. Under Clinton, violent crime fell dramatically.
Now...the Republican’s are back, and so is crime. Coincidence? I think not.
Neither, apparently, do the Editors of Alabama's Huntsville Times. In my web search on this issue, I came across this editorial. I find it particularly fascinating, because this burst of common sense bubbles up from a Red, Red Republican Red state*
Violence is up; it will be expensive and difficult to reduce it.
If you think the illegal immigration problem is a thorny one to solve, check out the increasing incidence of violent crime. Not violent crime somewhere else; violent crime in Huntsville. The Rocket City's rate was up 18 percent from 2005 to 2006...
... What's the cause? The usual suspects. Here [is one]:
Not enough police. The money for federal grants that pay for more local officers has declined under the Bush administration. It has other spending priorities. And local governments haven't found the revenue to hire more police without federal help[emphasis added].
Now, here's the rub...WE HAD IT LICKED. (When I say "WE", I mean the Democrats, and, although my fellow blogger J.D.Ryan over at Five Before Chaos will HATE THIS, I mean SPECIFICALLY "we" Democrats of the more pragmatic, centrist type...i.e. The DLC.)
The COPs (or Community Oriented Policing) program was created as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement act of 1994. The program is described on the Department Of Justice website as follows:
the mission of the COPS Office is to advance community policing in jurisdictions of all sizes across the country. Community policing represents a shift from more traditional law enforcement in that it focuses on prevention of crime and the fear of crime on a very local basis. Community policing puts law enforcement professionals on the streets and assigns them a beat, so they can build mutually beneficial relationships with the people they serve. By earning the trust of the members of their communities and making those individuals stakeholders in their own safety, community policing makes law enforcement safer and more efficient, and makes America safer
More money to hire police, more pressure put on those police to become a part of their neighborhoods, to cut off crime at the source rather than serve as an occupying army...and crime fell during the Clinton years.
During George W. Bush's administration, however, COPs has been underfunded (and police officers have been pulled from their jobs at home to fight overseas in Bush's disastrous war) and Crime, according to the FBI is going up again.
An essay on the DLC website takes Bush to task:
Remember the great crime wave of the late 1980s and early 1990s? Well, we're beginning to get some nasty reminders of what it was like before the large and sustained -- and in some places dramatic -- drops in violent crime that America enjoyed for about a decade. Recently released FBI statistics showed violent crime up nationally in 2006 for the second year in a row, with particularly disturbing rises in murders and armed robberies in Midwestern cities.
Even as crime shows signs of making a big comeback, the Bush administration and congressional Republicans have consistently worked to undermine the crime-fighting initiatives of the Clinton years, cutting federal law enforcement assistance to states and localities by about $2 billion since 2002. At the same time, many police departments are struggling from personnel shortages (in part because police officers are disproportionately represented in the reserve and national guard units that have been called up for Iraq), higher costs, and new anti-terrorism responsibilities.
A particular target for the GOP has been the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program, the signature Clinton crime initiative that placed over 100,000 new officers on the streets in the late 1990s, and also strongly promoted the proactive, problem-solving policing strategies that showed such great success in reducing crime in many major cities...
Democrats are trying to reauthorize COPs...and yet this action is being held up by Republicans in the Senate...
Again, the DLC:
... it's time for Republicans to get over their strange antipathy toward the importance of police officers in fighting crime, and their reflexive opposition to any initiative identified with President Clinton. In anticipation of the unpleasant new crime statistics, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called for a national response focused on -- you guessed it -- longer mandatory sentences for those convicted of violent crimes. If we learned anything about crime-fighting in recent years, it's that smart policing can have a big impact on preventing crimes before they happen. It's certainly no time to deny police departments the help they need to turn around the upsurge in violent crime. And we encourage presidential candidates in both parties to make this a serious issue in 2008.
But, if the Republicans continue to have their way (which, I hope, is unlikely) then we are more liable to get something along the lines of what the Huntsville Timespredicts:
What we require are a variety of approaches that target all of the problems and promote a variety of solutions. Above all, we need, as a country, to embrace the noble concept that civility, not violence, should be a national virtue.
What we'll probably get is a "War on Crime" from a politician who will use the figures to scare us and to make it appear that the matter is being addressed.
But, in the meantime, crime creeps back into our cities, our once solid national financial strength seeps from between our fingers, and our once awesome position of respect throughout the world evaporates like ice in the sun...
Just another example of progress rolled back, and opportunity squandered...brought to you by the Bush Administration.
*(Although, I must admit, I don't know much about the Huntsville Time's editorial staff...they may be a bunch of liberal holdouts trapped in the heart of the Confederacy.)