Law enforcement and criminal justice policy has largely been shuffled off to the states and cities, writes Ashby Jones in the Wall Street Journal. News media coverage has fallen mostly to metro sections and local newscasts. Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama has given the issue much airtime on the campaign trail. “We’re living in a time and a place where crime is at very low levels,” says George Tita, criminologist at the University of California, Irvine. “We’re not in the throes of an urban crime epidemic.”
Yet the per capita violent-crime rate has mostly been creeping up since 2004. And in some pockets, the rate has ticked up significantly, Jones says. Says David Kennedy of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice: “Even in cities where crime is down, like Baltimore, there remain neighborhoods and areas that are exceptionally dangerous.” Some say crime has simply been overshadowed by other issues, including national security. “All eyes, all attention at the federal level, are on Al Qaeda and the war on terror,” says Michael Nutter, Philadelphia’s mayor. “Fact is, al Qaeda wouldn’t last a day in parts of Philadelphia. I’ve got gangsters with .45s that would run them outta town.” In an annual Gallup Poll on crime, taken in October of last year, the percentage of respondents who described the crime problem in the U.S. as “extremely serious” or “very serious” was as high as it has been since 2000.