In Many Big Cities, Crime Rises While Police Forces Shrink


Violent crime increases in many big cities are “reasons for concern but not alarm,” says criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. Still, Fox believes that the crime picture may be worse than was indicated by a recent Justice Department victimization survey because robberies have increased markedly; the total has remained down in large part because of a decline in reported simple assaults, which Fox says often amount to “people shoving each other.” Fox spoke at a panel sponsored by Criminal Justice Journalists at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Boston. A decline in police staffing has hit many of the same cities where crime is rising, he noted. Cities with populations more than 250,000 have suffered cuts totalling more than 9 percent since 2000, Fox said. By contrast, smaller police department numbers have remained steady.

At the same discussion, Police Chief Dean Esserman of Providence, R.I., lamented that many Americans “seem to accept” the fact that “we lose 16,000 people every year” to homicide, five times as many as were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. “We are burying our children and becoming used to it,” Esserman said. He called for a re-emphasis on “hometown defense” as well as homeland security. Also speaking was crime reporter Maria Cramer of the Boston Globe, who defended the media’s reporting of a climbing homicide total in Boston. “Each murder is a story we have to tell,” Cramer said. “When people don’t go out on their porches because they’re afraid to be shot at, that is news.”


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