With violent crime on the upswing after more than a decade of decline, Congress is moving to boost federal support for local crime-fighting, which has languished since the 2001 terrorist attacks, says the Los Angeles Times. Efforts are underway on Capitol Hill to revive a popular federal grant program begun in the Clinton administration that the Times says helped put nearly 200,000 new police officers on the streets in the 1990s (other estimates have varied). A bipartisan group of senators is pushing sweeping legislation to expand federal involvement in combating gang violence and increasing prevention efforts in the most gang-infested cities, especially Los Angeles.
The initiatives have yet to produce any new law and have not been endorsed by the Bush administration. “We got it right in the 1990s. We can get it right again in the 21st century,” Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said yesterday on Capitol Hill, where he testified for the gang bill. “But it is essential that the federal government reengage.” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last week announced his own crime initiatives. He has downplayed the crime increases. The increases threaten to become a political problem for the Republican administration and may give congressional Democrats an opportunity to seize the crime issue. A bill by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) to ensure that the COPS program, which Biden worked to create in the early 1990s, again funds police hiring has passed the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.