Delaware Voice - Biden Bill Seeks to Bolster Police Power
By SEN. JOE BIDEN and COL. RICK GREGORY
Last month, the FBI told America that violent crime increased for the second consecutive year -- the first time that happened since 1994. Murders in particular showed an alarming trend, rising an additional 1.8 percent after an increase of 3.4 percent -- the biggest spike in 15 years -- in 2005.
Perhaps the most discouraging fact is that none of us -- lawmakers, law enforcement, or those we serve -- should be surprised. President Bush took steps toward dismantling the federal, state, and local partnership that helped reduce crime in the 1990s as soon as he entered office. And in the wake of 9/11 the administration shifted federal resources away from violent crime towards counterterrorism.
While this was necessary in the short term, there was no plan to replace these resources and, as a consequence, communities are suffering.
Delaware is no exception. Because of the tireless work of our law enforcement community, we have fared better than many states, but crime remains a significant challenge. One of the most troubling paradigms we face today is violent crimes committed by our youth. It seems as the severity of the crimes increase, the ages of the offenders decrease.
We see it every night on the evening news. From the Edgemoor double murder last week to the awful experiences of Delaware State University this fall, the evidence shows that our communities are growing more dangerous and this is happening in our backyards and public schools.
In the early 1990s, crime was at an all-time high. Congress responded by passing the 1994 Crime Bill. This legislation recognized for the first time that crime was a shared responsibility, and we were able to drive down crime rates for eight straight years. The murder rate dropped 34 percent and violent crime dropped 26 percent.
The linchpin was the creation of the Community Oriented Policing Services Program (COPS), which has funded over 118,000 community policing officers in jurisdictions throughout the nation. The Government Accountability Office and a study by the Brookings Institution found that COPS was one of the nation's most cost-effective programs for combating crime.
During the time period from 1994-2000, the New Castle County Police Department was able to add and retain 43 new police officer positions from the Crime Bill and COPS funding. The staffing level was able to grow by at least 15 percent as a result of the federal assistance.
Rather than support programs such as COPS, the Bush administration has virtually eliminated it. President Bush has proposed cuts each year he has been in office. Funding for state and local law enforcement programs run out of the Department of Justice is down 75.6 percent since fiscal year 2002.
This afternoon, we will take steps to change that. Joined by police chiefs from all over Delaware, we will announce the 2007 Biden Crime Bill, which puts our communities back on the right track by supporting the first line of defense and helping to break the cycle of violence through recidivism and prevention strategies.
The legislation restores the COPS hiring program and authorizes funding to hire 50,000 new community policing officers over the next six years.
It also will reauthorize an additional 1,000 agents -- the same amount this administration took off the streets -- to focus on local crime. In addition, the Biden Crimes Bill will tackle new problems by establishing programs to ensure that the 600,000 prisoners released from prison every year don't become repeat offenders.
We also offer concrete plans to protect our children from Internet predators, create an army of attorneys to assist domestic abuse victims, and address the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
We cannot afford to spend billions on wars abroad while ignoring terrorist threats and violent crime at home. It's the local beat cop who is one of our most effective tools against terrorism and violent crime. It was, for example, a quick-thinking officer in London who disconnected a car bomb before bomb squad officers arrived.
The rule is a simple one: more cops means less crime. It worked in the 1990s and it will work again -- as soon as we provide the necessary support to our local agencies.
Sen. Joe Biden is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, and Col. Rick Gregory is the chief of police in New Castle County.