While dire issues fill the presidential platform, neither candidate talks much about the issue that cuts through party lines, economic and social status and brings fear to most voters: crime, says the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Not terrorist cells, just plain, old-fashioned crime, the kind that forces homeowners to put bars on windows, to stay inside after sundown or sleep with a handgun in the nightstand. Nothing is more important to Memphians than crime, according to a poll taken in January by The Commercial Appeal. Of six issues, crime outranked them all. The city known for the blues and barbecue is also ranked as the second most violent place to live in the country, behind only Detroit. When it comes to property crime, Memphis outranks everywhere.
Special local anticrime initiatives are funded partly or entirely through federal grants, which most political analysts believe is the way federal officials help local government lock up criminals. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), believes crime should be part of the political debate in the race for the White House. Memphis and Shelby County have relied for years on federal Justice Assistance Grants to buy equipment or help with initiatives. Last year, the city and county split $420,642 in JAG funds. That money is going away, said Julie Nations, Memphis police grants manager. Criminologist Richard Janikowski of the University of Memphis believes significant crime reduction in the 1990s and early 2000s made politicians complacent about crime.