When the polling firm Cooper & Secrest Associates asked 1,139 Americans in December which of two threats they took most seriously, 69 percent chose violent crime and only 19 percent named terrorist attack, says columnist David Broder in the Washington Post. Third Way, a liberal think tank, issued a report warning that the crime issue, which has slipped off the political agenda since its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, is about to return. “Four new and dangerous sociological trends are converging to disturb the peace and are threatening a crisis of crime, if not addressed,” the report says.
The trends include a huge increase in the number of criminals due to leave prison in the next five years, the infiltration of criminal gangs into the surge of illegal immigrants, the bulge in the number of young people entering the highest-crime years and the technology revolution that has made the Internet a place of danger for unsupervised youths. Third Way offers examples of what some states are doing to head off this explosion, but the federal government seems to be in retreat. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius told Broder that, facing a projected 25 percent increase in prison cells, she and her corrections commissioner launched vocational education and substance abuse programs in the prisons and retrained probation officers as individual case managers. With help from community groups, they have reduced the crime rate among parolees by 41 percent while stabilizing the prison population and saving the state an estimated $80 million in new prison construction. The new survey found a statistical dead heat between the parties on a question of which would do a better job reducing crime, with 33 percent naming the Democrats and 31 percent the Republicans.