Police and other criminal-justice officials could benefit from more and better research on crime fighting, but they have failed to make their case convincingly for more federal aid to Congress and the Bush administration. So said panelists at a forum in Washington yesterday sponsored by the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. Sally Hillsman of the American Sociological Association lamented that lobbyists for federally sponsored research on major diseases have been much more successful than have advocates for crime research.
About $12 million is allocated each year by the National Institute of Justice for social science research, a figure that has fluctuated between $10 and $20 million in recent years, said NIJ’s Thomas Feucht. Redlands, Ca., police Chief James Bueermann said more research is needed “to make cops smarter.” Lisa Owings, an adviser to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), said a lack of solid information about “what works” to reduce crime is a “huge problem,” but that state and local officials have not argued sufficiently that crime is a major concern for federal policy makers. Ronald Weich, senior counsel to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said that unlike disease research, politicians often assume that crime solutions are obvious, like adding more police officers. In reality it is a “quite complex” problem, he said.