Justice Department officials are scrambling to demonstrate that they’re addressing sharp jumps in violent crime in some cities, says McClatchy Newspapers. The report says the Bush administration is trying to reclaim a traditionally Republican issue amid criticism from some Democrats, mayors, and police chiefs. Some experts and politicians are citing federal cuts in city and state law enforcement funding as a contributor to spikes in murders, robberies, and assaults in medium-sized cities.
“There’s no locomotive coming down the track saying we have to have a high homicide rate,” said Lawrence Sherman, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerry Lee Center of Criminology. “What it’s more like is a bubbling cauldron that could either boil over or go back down to simmer.” The rise in gang activity has drawn the attention of the Justice Department. Yesterday, Alice Fisher, chief of the Criminal Division, Assistant FBI Director Chip Burrus, and other officials described efforts to crack down on gangs, especially national and international gangs, such as the Salvadoran la Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). Unlike the centralized, crack-dealing gangs of the 1990s, Burrus said today’s gangs are more neighborhood-based. “They’re local, they’re violent, and we really have to do something about it,” Burrus said.