Senate Democrats

Democrats are Working to Stop the Increase in Violent Crime by Restoring Funding to State and Local Law Enforcement Programs

In 1994, faced with a national crime crisis, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, (theCrime Bill), which provided federal funds to allow state and local law enforcement to hire additional police officers.  The results were dramatic: between 1994 and 2001, violent crime dropped by more than 26 percent, the most sustained decline in 40 years.

Beginning in 2001, however, President Bush, with the help of the Republican controlled Congress, began de-funding state and local law enforcement assistance programs, cutting federal funding by more than $2 billion by 2006.  And the results have been equally dramatic:  violent crime is on the rise again.  In 2005, violent crime increased at the fastest rate in fifteen years, and the increases continued last year.  These statistics foreshadow what could be a troubling trend, a backsliding into the “bad old days” of the 1980s and early 1990s when we were losing the war on crime.

Democrats in the 110th Congress are committed to reversing this trend, as we did in the 1990′s, by making basic crime fighting a priority once again by adequately funding successful state and local law enforcement programs.  Democrats, together with the law enforcement community, will take the country in a new and more secure direction.

The COPS program led to a reduction in violent crime.  Fifteen years ago, the United States was in the midst of a violent crime wave.  Over the previous 25 years, violent crime had already increased by 139 percent, and experts were making dire predictions about the future.  But then something changed:  from 1994 through 2000, federal and local government responded with tough, smart programs that made a difference. 

In 1994, Congress passed the Crime Bill, which created the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.  This program, administered through the Department of Justice (DOJ), revolutionized state and local law enforcement, enabling police officials to deploy new crime-fighting technologies, develop innovative policing methods, and hire new officers.  An overwhelming success, COPS placed nearly 118,000 officers on the street in more than 13,000 communities across the country.    

Between 1994 and 2001, due in large part to COPS, violent crime decreased by over 26 percent, and the murder rate dropped by 34 percent.  In October 2005, Congress’s independent watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), credited COPS with reducing crime.  GAO found that for every dollar spent in COPS hiring per resident, crime fell by almost 30 incidents per 100,000 residents. (CBS News, “FBI: Violent Crime on the Rise,” 06/02/07; GAO, “Community Policing Grants: COPS Grants were a Modest Contributor to the Declines in Crime in the 1990s,” October 2005)

Instead of maintaining or increasing funding levels, President Bush and Congressional Republicans drastically reduced funding for successful state and local law enforcement programs.  Despite the success of COPS, President Bush attempted to gut funding for its hiring program beginning with his first budget proposal in 2001.  In 1997 and 1998, approximately $1.2 billion dollars were spent each year by the federal government to hire new police officers under COPS.  By 2006, after steady decreases, that number had fallen to $0. 

The Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans did not stop there, reducing funding for other DOJ programs, including the Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance grant program (Byrne) and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program (LLEBG).  In 1997 and 1998, roughly $900 million was spent on these programs.  As soon as they were consolidated into the new Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program (Byrne/JAG), the President proposed a cut of $123 million, and by 2006, Congress had cut the program by nearly $400 million.  Last year, the Administration proposed eliminating Byrne/JAG altogether. 

                                                                             

By 2006, Republicans in Washington had effectively retreated from the war on crime, cutting funding for DOJ programs by nearly 50 percent. 

Years of irresponsible budget cuts to law enforcement programs have contributed to an increase in violent crime — for the second year in a row.   In 2005, the nation’s violent crime rate showed an alarming reversal by increasing significantly for the first time in nearly 15 years.  Between 2004 and 2005, the FBI reported a 2.3 percent increase in violent crime, which includes murder, robbery, and aggravated assault.  The murder rate increased by 3.4 percent, robbery increased by 3.9 percent, and aggravated assault increased by 1.8 percent.  (Federal Bureau of Investigations, Crime in the United States, 2005) 

The FBI preliminary crime statistics report for 2006 suggests a disturbing trend of increasing violent crime.  Violent crime increased by 1.3 percent from 2005.  The murder rate increased by .3 percent and robbery increased by an alarming six percent.   Broken out by region, the West experienced the highest increase, by 2.8 percent, but the Midwest (2.1 percent) and the South (.6 percent) also saw increases in violent crime.  Only the Northeast showed a slight decrease, by .1 percent.  This good news was tempered, however, by the fact that the Northeast experienced the highest increase in murders — up 2.5 percent since 2005.  The Western region of the country saw the highest increase in robberies, which increased by 11.6 percent.  Thankfully, aggravated assault decreased by .7 percent from 2005, but this was still up from 2004 levels. (Federal Bureau of Investigations, Crime in the United States, 2006 preliminary report) 

Spreading beyond the very largest cities, the greatest increases in violent crime occurred in cities with populations of 250,000 to 499,999 and towns with populations of 25,000 to 49,999, both of which showed a 3.2 percent increase from 2005 to 2006.  Robberies in these cities have also skyrocketed.  Cities with populations of 250,000 to 499,999 and populations of 100,000 to 249,999 had 8.6 percent more robberies in 2006 than in 2005, and towns with populations of 25,000 to 49,999 and 10,000 to 24,999 experienced increases in robberies of 9.2 and 7.4 percent, respectively.  Cities with populations of over one million, however, experienced the highest increases in murders, jumping by 6.7 percent in 2006.  The bottom line: violent crime increased for the second year in a row and no area of the country was immune. (Federal Bureau of Investigations, Crime in the United States, 2006 preliminary report) 

Reduced federal funding leads to fewer cops on the street and less resources for innovative crime fighting.  Bush Administration budget cuts, when coupled with the loss of reservists called to active duty, have left many police departments in a “cop crunch.”  Joseph Carter, President of the International Association of the Chiefs of Police, warns of “what happens when law-enforcement agencies are stretched too thin: crime rates rise.”  Bush Administration budget cuts have caused state and local agencies to put fewer cops on the street and avert attention from community-based crime prevention programs.  Smaller and mid-sized cities, which depend more on federal funds, have been particularly hurt.  State and local law enforcement agencies fear that, unless basic policing is made a priority again, the violent crime increases of the past two years will be just the beginning of a new crime wave. (Washington Times, “Police chiefs eye more federal aid; Association pleads for budget support to halt rise in crime,” 12/27/06; Time, “The Next Crime Wave,” 12/11/06)

President Bush’S.2008 budget request turned its back on state and local law enforcement . . . again.  Instead of responding to law enforcement officers’ calls for help, the President asked Congress to:

·        Massively cut 1.4 billion (or 54 percent) in funding for all state and local law enforcement programs at DOJ.  The President’s total funding proposal for these programs is only 1.2 billion.  Under the 2007 Continuing Resolution, passed by the Democratic-lead, 110th Congress, these programs received a total of $2.6 billion, which is $200 million more than was allocated in Fiscal Year 2006, when Congress was controlled by Republicans. 

·        Cut $509 million (or 94 percent) from the COPS program and eliminate the hiring program.  COPS helps state and local law enforcement agencies hire police officers, enhance crime fighting technology, support crime prevention initiatives, and combat methamphetamine use and distribution.  The budget request provides only $32 million for the COPS program, which would only support programs that currently exist, and provides no funding for the hiring of new police officers.  Under the 2007 Continuing Resolution, COPS received $541.7 million, which is $84.3 million more than was allocated in Fiscal Year 2006.

·        Virtually eliminate the Byrne/JAG program.  The Byrne/JAG program helps state and local governments address gangs, drugs, and school violence.  Under the 2007 Continuing Resolution, the program received $519 million in funding, which is $108 million more than was allocated in Fiscal Year 2006. 

·        Eliminate funding for the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program. This program promotes greater accountability in the juvenile justice system.  Under the 2007 Continuing Resolution, the program received $50 million in funding, which matched the Fiscal Year 2006 level.

·        Eliminate funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).  SCAAP assists state and local governments with the costs of jailing illegal immigrants who have committed crimes not related to their immigration status.  Under the 2007 Continuing Resolution, the program received $405 million in funding, which matched the Fiscal Year 2006 level.

While the President’s recent plan to create a grant program to curb violent crime should be applauded, it does not restore the billions of dollars in funding that have been stripped from state and local law enforcement programs during his Administration. 

Law enforcement organizations are outraged at the Bush Administration’s cuts to law enforcement.  Numerous law enforcement and local government organizations have criticized the President’s drastic cuts in funding, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police; the National Sheriffs’ Association; the Major City Chiefs; the International Brotherhood of Police Officers; and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. 

Police Chief Mary Ann Viverette, Immediate Past President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), warned that “cuts [to state and local law enforcement] have the potential to cripple the capabilities of law enforcement agencies nationwide and will undoubtedly force many departments to take officers off the streets, leading to more crime and violence in our hometowns and ultimately less security for our homeland.” [IACP, Capitol Report, 02/06/06]

Thomas Nee, President of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), noted that “America’s state and local law enforcement are being disregarded by the current administration.  They are being passed over for critical funding to assist them in performing their roles in combating and responding to crime and terrorism.” (Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, “Rising Crime in the United States: Examining the Federal Role in Helping Communities Prevent and Respond to Violent Crime,” 05/23/07)

Despite assertions to the contrary, DHS funding has not made up for the reduction in DOJ program funding.  The Bush Administration defends its cuts to local law enforcement programs by claiming that the Department of Homeland Security provides grants for state and local purposes.  While this is true and important, much of those funds are earmarked for counter-terrorism efforts, not local law enforcement.  Since 9/11, local police departments in many cities have had to divert officers from their traditional duties to guard airports, borders, transportation infrastructure, utilities, and special events.  Asking departments to do double duty with less money is, as Chief Viverette noted, “both hypocritical and irresponsible.” 

Moreover, even Homeland Security grants to local law enforcement have been cut by the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans.  According to Mr. Nee (the President of NAPO), “the three primary DHS programs – the State Homeland Security Grant Program, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, and the Urban Area Security Initiative – have been slashed by almost 50 percent from fiscal year 2003 levels, when these programs received more than $3 billion in funding.  Yet law enforcement’s role in homeland security has not diminished along with the funding.” (Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, “Rising Crime in the United States: Examining the Federal Role in Helping Communities Prevent and Respond to Violent Crime,” 05/23/07)

Funding state and local law enforcement not only saves lives, it saves money.  In a recent policy briefing, Yale economist John Donohue and Georgetown economist Jens Ludwig estimate that crime in the United States costs Americans approximately $2 trillion per year.  Included in this total: “[N]early $700 billion come from costs to victims, of which around $490 billion comes from serious violent crimes (nearly $180 billion from homicides alone).  Additional costs to society from crime come from the approximately $350 billion worth of time and goods dedicated to protecting against crime by private citizens and firms as well as government agencies, $250 billion from the lost value of criminals’ time spent planning crimes or in prison, and the remaining $700 billion or so is from costs imposed by white collar or economic crimes.”  These experts approximate that for each $1.4 billion invested in the COPS program society will benefit by $6 billion to $12 billion. (The Brookings Institution, Policy Brief #158, “More COPS,” 03/07) 

Under Democratic-leadership, Congress has begun the process of restoring funding for law enforcement assistance programs.  Within six weeks of convening the 110th Congress, Democrats passed H.J.Res.20, the Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2007 (2007 Continuing Resolution), which provided funding for the nine remaining appropriations bills that were not completed by Republicans in the 109th Congress.  The continuing resolution provided $2.6 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance programs.  Included in that was $519 million to the Byrne/JAG program, which is an increase of 108.7 million over Fiscal Year 2006 levels, and $541.7 million to the COPS program, which is an increase of $67.9 million from Fiscal Year 2006 levels. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee has also approved S.368,the COPS Improvement Act of 2007, which would authorize $1.15 billion per year for police hiring grants ($600 million per year), law enforcement technology grants ($350 million per year), and community prosecutor grants ($200 million per year). 

As this bill makes its way through the legislative process and as the 110th Congress works to complete the 2008 appropriations bills, American families, and the state and local law enforcement agencies that serve them, can be assured that Democrats are as committed as ever to combating violent crime and terrorism and making their communities safer.

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