Crime may be on the rise again in the U.S. says NPR. It’s too early to talk about a national trend, but there have been troubling spikes in shootings and murders in big cities like New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles. Until recently, crime decreased steadily for two decades, and the national murder rate is half what it was in the early 1990s. Police departments are under pressure to crack down but their tactics are under more public scrutiny, and they have to be careful not to appear too heavy-handed. Big police departments are responding with specialized units. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton is expanding use of “Renaissance cops,” hybrid officers who combine the duties of a detective, a patrol officer and intelligence investigator.
The idea is to have officers who don’t have to chase service calls and can concentrate on a neighborhood’s trouble spots. Los Angeles, with the nation’s second-largest police department, is doing something similar, expanding its Metropolitan Division. Elite officers are deployed as platoons to trouble spots anywhere in the city. They also don’t have to respond to routine calls; they spend their time trying to head off violence before it happens. The LAPD has gone through 20 years of difficult reforms, pressured by the Justice Department and community groups to behave less like an occupying army in high-crime neighborhoods. Ronald Noblet of the Urban Peace Institute says there’s been a lot of progress but worries about back-sliding. “I believe the LAPD is at a tipping point,” he says. “They could go back to what they were in a minute.”