So little good research has been done on how to cope with violent crime that “efforts to reduce persistent murder patterns might be difficult once the most obvious remedies have been attempted,” says criminologist Peter Scharf of Texas State University. Scharf, who has long studied New Orleans crime, said murders in that city have increased despite an anticrime campaign “grounded in practice and belief, but not research.” He cited the presence of the National Guard, an increase in federal agents, and a temporary curfew, among other efforts.
Scharf spoke today in Washington, D.C., to a “summit on crime policy” sponsored by Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Among other major subjects on the program were race and the criminal justice system, early intervention and prevention, effective punishment and prisoner re-entry, and due process and habeas corpus reform. Scharf noted that the federal government sponsors anticrime research and local anticrime projects, but rarely makes a linkage between the two. He said that murder take more lives in the U.S. than do “the diseases targeted by the National Institutes of Health at levels 30 times the budget of the National Institute of Justice,” the Justice Department’s research agency.