This week, the FBI released its Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report for 2006, which reflected an overall rise in violent crime in the United States last year. The report shows that violent crime increased 1.3 percent nationally, while property crime dropped 2.9 percent. Violent crime includes murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Unfortunately, this is the second year in a row that violent crime has increased after a rather dramatic decline that lasted from 1993 until a spike in 2005.
The spike in violence that occurred in 2005 is primarily attributed to increased violent crime in small to mid-sized cities across the country, such as Indianapolis and Milwaukee. This latest FBI report indicates the continuation of that trend, with large cities like New York experiencing a decline in violent crime, but medium-sized cities experiencing large, disproportionate increases. Cities in the Midwest, in particular, seem to be battling the largest surge in violent crime.
According to an article by the Washington Post, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez has new anticrime proposals in response to the report that aim to “set new minimum sentences, establish longer penalties for the illegal use of firearms, and broaden conspiracy statutes to allow for easier prosecution of violent gang members.” But some other experts in the field insist that more money and more police officers are needed on the streets. Some vocal lawmakers have called for a restoration of funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which provides money for local policing, but whose funding has seen cuts in recent years.
This recent surge in violent crime nationally is not nearly as bad as the trend we experienced from 1985 – 1992, which was driven primarily by the crack cocaine epidemic of that period. However, it is cause for concern, and as crime prevention practitioners and promoters, we should always think towards the future. How can we all address this problem, and stem the increase in violence?