Senate Democrats

Bush Republicans Cut Law Enforcement Funding, Violent Crime Increases For Second Consecutive Year

This week, the Federal Bureau of Investigations released its annual crime report, entitled “Crime in the United States, 2006.”  The results for violent crime rates are very disappointing, but after years of irresponsible funding cuts to state and local law enforcement programs and misplaced priorities, they are not surprising.  For the second year in a row, violent crime is on the rise. 

In the 110th Congress, Senate Democrats, unwilling to lose the gains made in the 1990’s and early part of this decade to reduce crime across the country, are reinvesting in state and local law enforcement programs and making basic crime fighting a priority again.  Working together with state, local, and federal law enforcement officials, we will continue to take the country in a new and more secure direction.

More than ten years ago, Congress passed landmark legislation to help state and local law enforcement agencies reduce the nation’s crime rate.  In the early 1990’s, the country was in the midst of a violent crime wave.  Over the previous 25 years, violent crime had 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 initiated tough, smart programs that made a difference. 

In 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (the Crime Bill) – one of the most significant pieces of anti-crime legislation in the history of the country provided, among other things, federal funds to allow state and local law enforcement to hire additional police officers and employ innovative crime-fighting strategies.

The COPS program has led to a reduction in violent crime.  The Crime Bill created the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.  This program, which is administered through the Department of Justice (DOJ), has revolutionized state and local law enforcement, enabling police officials to hire nearly 118,000 officers (including 6,500 school resources offices) in more than 13,000 (out of nearly 18,000) agencies across America. [1]  The grant program also allowed agencies to advance technology and improve capabilities with in-car computers, in-car cameras, computerized dispatch systems, and interoperable communications.[2]

This investment in state and local law enforcement paid off: between 1994 and 2000, violent crime decreased nationwide by nearly 26 percent, and the murder and non-negligent homicide rate dropped by nearly 34 percent.[3]  Violent crime continued to decline through the first years of this decade, until 2005.[4]  Ironically, in October of that year, 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.[5] 

Instead of maintaining or increasing funding levels, President Bush and Congressional Republicans drastically reducedfunding 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 had cut funding for these DOJ programs by nearly 50 percent. 

Irresponsible budget cuts to law enforcement grant 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 byincreasing 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.  Murders increased by 3.4 percent; robbery increased by 3.9 percent; and aggravated assault increased by 1.8 percent.[6]

With the release of the FBI’s Crime Report for 2006, last year’s “up-tick” in violent crime is beginning to look more like a trend of increasing violent crime.  Overall, violent crime increased by 1.9 percent from 2005, a higher percentage than was estimated in June’s preliminary report.[7]  The number of homicides rose by 1.8 percent and robbery increased by a very alarming 7.2 percent; both rates are significantly higher than originally predicted.[8]

While these increases may seem modest, consider that the 1.9 percent increase in violent crime between 2005 and 2006 means that 27,000 additional crimes were committed and the 1.8 percent increase in homicides means that nearly 300 additional men, women, children — our friends, family, neighbors — were killed.[9]  The 2005 and 2006 increases represent the “first steady increase in violent crime since 1993” the year before the Crime Bill was enacted.[10]

Some regions of the country have seen far greater increases in violent crime than has been experienced nationally.  Broken out by region, the West experienced the highest increase in the number of violent crimes, by 3.0 percent, but the Midwest (1.8 percent) and the South (2.3 percent) also saw increases in violent crime from 2005 to 2006.[11]  Only the Northeast showed a decrease, by .4 percent.[12]  This good news was tempered, however, by the fact that the Northeast experienced the second highest increase in the number of homicides, at a 1.9 percent.[13]  Robberies rose in the Northeast by 2.3 percent.[14] Western states experienced the highest increase in robberies at 12.3 percent, but saw a decrease in homicides by .8 percent.[15]  The South saw the highest increase in homicides at 3.6 percent and the second highest increase in robberies at 7.4 percent.[16]  The Midwest saw a .7 percent increase in the number of homicides and a 5.7 percent increase in robberies.[17] 

Small and mid-sized cities have suffered most from the increase in violent crime in 2006.  In what could be the beginning of a crime wave, no area of the country is immune.  Spreading beyond the very largest cities, the greatest increases in violent crime occurred in cities with populations of 25,000 to 49,999 at 3.8 percent and in populations of 50,000 and 99,999 at 3.5 percent.  Cities with 25,000 to 49,000 also saw the greatest increase in robberies at 10.4 percent.  Cities with 100,000 to 249,999 saw the second largest increase at 9.2 percent.  Each of these groups experienced crime rates higher than the national average.[18] 

Reduced federal funding leads to fewer cops on the street and fewer 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.[19]

President Bush’S.2008 budget request failed to respond to the needs of 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. 

o       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.  The request also eliminates the COPS in School program.  Under the 2007 Continuing Resolution, COPS received $541.8 million, which is $84.3 million more than was allocated in Fiscal Year 2006.

o       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. 

o       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.

o       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.”[20]

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.”[21]

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.  The same is true at the national level, where the President has reassigned 1,000 FBI agents previously combating crime to countering terrorism, which, as a practical matter, has only put more responsibility on localities.  Asking these departments to do double duty with less money is, as Chief Viverette noted, “both hypocritical and irresponsible.”[22] 

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.  Nevertheless, law enforcement’s role in homeland security has not diminished along with the funding.”[23]

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.[24]

Under Democratic-leadership, Congress has begun 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. 

On September 21, the full Senate passed S.456, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007.  This bipartisan, comprehensive gang legislation would provide more than $1 billion in funding for gang prevention, intervention, and suppression programs, as well as create tough federal penalties to deter and punish members of illegal street gangs.  Included in this allocation is $411.5 million in funding over five years for newly designated “High Intensity” Gang Activity Areas, for gang protection block grants, and for mentoring and after-school programs, all of which will focus on prevention and intervention efforts.  The bill would also authorize $100 million over five years to expand crime control grants to state and local governments to better enable them to investigate and prosecute more cases against gangs and violent criminals, and allocate $100 for the expansion of the Project Safe Neighborhood, which will focus on preventing violence and gun crimes by gang members.

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). 

The Senate Appropriations Committee has also approved S.1745, the Departments of Commerce and Justice, science and related agencies, 2008 appropriations bill.  In that bill, the Senate provides $2.66 billion for state and local law enforcement, which is 1.55 billion more that the President requested in his 2008 Budget Request.  The bill appropriates $550 million for COPS ($517 million above the President’s inadequate request) and $1.4 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance, which includes the Byrne/JAG program ($850 million more than the President’s request).  In spite of the obvious need for these funds in cities and counties across America, the President has threatened to veto this bill in part because of increases for state and local law enforcement funding. 

As these bills make their way through the legislative process, American families, and the state and local law enforcement agencies that serve them, can be assured that Democrats will be undeterred by the President’s veto threats and are committed to combating violent crime and terrorism and making their communities safer. 

[1] International Association of the Chiefs of Police, Legislative Agenda for the 110th Congress, available at

[2] Id.

[3] FBI, Crime in the United States, 2006, Table 1 — Volume and Rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 1987-2006 available at Rte per 100,000 Inhabitants, 1987 – 2006 

[4] Id.

[5] 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,” 10/05.

[6] FBI, Crime in the United States, 2005, available at  

[7] Originally estimated at an increase of 1.3 percent in the preliminary report.  Infra at 3. 

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Washington Post, “Violent Crime, a Sticky Issue for White House, Shows Steeper Rise,” September 25, 2007.

[11] FBI, Crime in the United States, 2006, Table 4 — Region, Geographic Division, and State, 2005-2006 available at

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] FBI, Crime in the United States, 2006, Table 12 — Population Group, 2005-2006 available at

[19] 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.

[20] IACP, Capitol Report, 02/06/06.

[21] 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.

[22] Infra at 20.

[23] Infra at 21. 

[24] The Brookings Institution, Policy Brief #158, “More COPS,” 03/07.