Newsweek’s Web site offers its take on the crime-report increase issued by the FBI, the first back-to-back increases in the national violent-crime numbers since the early 1990s. The recent surge has cops concerned that if nothing is done quickly, the bad old days of high crime and widespread fear might return. “It's like a cancer patient,” says Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton. “You think you are clear, and then [the tumor] comes back again.”
Some local cops say the time has come for a renewed federal commitment to crime fighting. Federal funding for local programs like the Clinton-era Community Oriented Police Services that hired 100,000 local cops dropped from a high of $2.5 billion a year to $894 million last year. And much of the money flowing to law enforcement is tied up in homeland security, not bread-and-butter crime fighting. Indianapolis Metro Police Chief Michael Spears is adding officers: 49 last year, 50 this year. He has plans to add another 100 next year. Spears says he can already see the effects; through Aug. 16, there were 67 murders this year compared to 97 the same date in 2006. “Clearly at this point in our history, we need more officers,” he says. If violence continues to rise around the U.S., that opinion is likely to become very popular. Oakland police attribute the recent rises to an uptick in Latino gang violence, more turf wars between drug gangs, and an increase of what Police Chief Wayne Tucker calls “mindless violence” among juveniles who escalate minor disputes to homicide. The gang explanation resonates in a lot of smaller cities unused to this sort of violence, too.