Biden Unveils Most Comprehensive Anti-crime Legislation in Over a Decade
BIDEN Builds upon revolutionary approach of 1994 Biden Crime Bill while promoting new, innovative programs to focus on today's problems
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs and author of the landmark 1994 Crime Bill, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) unveiled today the most comprehensive anti-crime legislation in over a decade. The 2007 Biden Crime Bill builds upon the revolutionary approach of his 1994 legislation, while promoting new, innovative programs to focus on today's problems.
In the 1990s, our nation was facing a coast-to-coast crime wave. As a response, Sen. Biden authored the historic 1994 Crime Bill, which is credited by many as driving down crime rates to the lowest in a generation. Unfortunately, due largely to cuts to programs contained in the 1994 Bill, our nation is now facing a similar crime crisis. Last month, the FBI released its 2006 crime report based on data from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) database. For the second consecutive year, there were measurable increases in violent crime nationwide. This is the first time the crime rate has risen for two years in a row since the passage of the 1994 Biden Crime Bill, with violent crimes increasing 1.9 percent nationally. In 2005, the FBI found that murders were up 3.4 percent - the largest percentage increase in 15 years - with 16,692 murders in 2005 - the most since 1998.
"It should be a surprise to no one that crime is up for the second year in a row," said Sen. Biden. "The federal government has taken its focus off of street crime since 9/11, asking law enforcement to do more with less. Fewer police on the street protecting communities, plus fewer FBI agents focused on crime control, plus fewer federal law enforcement dollars equals more crime - it's as simple that. We need to meet this problem head-on, with a comprehensive approach that blends traditional crime-fighting tools with 2007 technology."
The 2007 Biden Crime Bill builds upon the three-part approach which reduced crime in the 1990s: invest in prevention programs, dedicate federal support to community-oriented policing, and ensure that offenders serve tough-but-fair prison sentences. The bill also addresses the problems of 2007, such as computer hacking, on-line child exploitation, intellectual property violations, and teenage prescription drug abuse. The bill focuses on the new challenges everyday police officers face. For example, in a post 9/11 world, our nation is asking our police to shoulder increased homeland security duties, with less and less federal resources. In addition, the Bush Administration has transitioned approximately 1,000 FBI agents away from traditional crime-fighting, to focus on terrorism. To help deal with these new problems, the 2007 Biden Crime Bill authorizes funds to hire 50,000 new police officers and 1,000 new FBI agents specifically to focus on traditional crime.
"Fighting terrorism is and should be a top priority for the FBI," said Sen. Biden. "But it's a false choice between fighting terrorism and fighting crime - we can walk and chew gum at the same time."
"Since 1994, the COPS funding has assisted the Delaware State Police in bringing many innovative policing initiatives to bear in the fight against violent crime and, also, in ensuring that we protect the homeland," Delaware State Police Lt. Col. Mark Seifert said. "We added countless tools to our troopers' toolboxes - such as mobile data computers, automated fingerprint analysis systems, in car cameras - and these tools are critical to success in fighting crime and terrorism. With a gathering storm of violent crime being evidenced nationwide, the Delaware State Police looks for further federal assistance in expanding our ranks of troopers through the COPS universal hiring' and Troops to COPS' programs. We've been fortunate to keep pace and grow our organization through state allocated funds, but the COPS office plays a critical role in helping the State Police to foster innovation in meeting the demands of our communities."
Specifically, the 2007 Biden Crime Bill will:
* Reauthorize the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). A Brookings Institute study determined that for every $1.4 billion invested in hiring law enforcement officers, society will get back $6 billion to $12 billion. The 2007 Biden Crime Bill revitalizes the Department of Justice COPS program by authorizing $1.15 billion per year, with $600 million set aside for hiring over the next six years - resulting in a benefit to society of $15.4 to $30 billion. The legislation authorizes: $600 million per year for the police hiring program - enough for up to 50,000 officers to combat terrorism, school violence, and engage in community policing; $350 million per year for police departments to acquire new technology and equipment to track and fight crime; and $200 million per year to help local district attorneys hire and train community prosecutors. Over the next six years we can expect roughly a 5% reduction in the crime rate based on a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of the effect of COPS from 1993 to 2000.
* Add 1,000 FBI Agents to Focus on Traditional Crime. Since 2001, between 1,000 and 2,400 FBI criminal investigators have been transitioned away from traditional crime fighting to focus on terrorism - without being replaced. The Bush Administration's budget calls for cutting more than 650 positions from the criminal program while transferring hundreds more agents to terrorism-prevention operations. The 2007 Biden Crime Bill authorizes funding for an additional 1,000 FBI field agents to fight violent crime so that the FBI does not have to continue to make the trade-off between fighting crime and terrorismthey must do both. A total of $160 million per year for the next four years is authorized for this purpose.
* Add 500 Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Agents to Fight Drug Trafficking. The DEA has been suffering from a hiring freeze that has crippled the agency's ability to deny funding to drug trafficking organizations. The 2007 Biden Crime Bill authorizes these desperately needed agents. Earlier this year, DEA Administrator Karen Tandy testified to a House subcommittee about the effect of the DEA hiring freeze: "[T]he impact of the freeze and the loss of these positions is expected to amount to 180-plus fewer primary drug organizations that we will be able to disrupt or dismantle, and most likely, approximately $300 million less in revenue that we will be able to deny the traffickers." While circumstances are slowly improving at DEA, there should be a vigorous effort to restore the special agent positions lost through attrition. This provision achieves that.
* Reduce Recidivism. If we are going to reduce recidivism and crime, we simply have to make concerted, common-sense efforts now to help the 650,000 ex-offenders released from Federal and State prisons every year successfully re-enter and re-integrate into their communities. Currently, ex-offenders make a real contribution to our rising crime rates - two-thirds of released State prisoners will be rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of release. The 2007 Biden Crime Bill provides more than $1 billion for substance abuse treatment programs, academic and vocational education programs, housing and job counseling programs, and mentoring for offenders who are approaching release and who have been released.
* Create A National Commission on Crime Intervention And Prevention Strategies. There is a sea of information on intervention and prevention strategies and we need a central source to identify intervention and prevention programs that are most ready for replication around the country. We also must provide resources and guidance in a direct and accessible format to state and local law enforcement on how to implement those strategies. The 2007 Biden Crime Bill will create a National Commission to address these issues and provide this kind of information and resources.
* Curb the Rise in Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse. Trends in drug abuse are like a balloon: squeeze one side of the balloon, and the other side expands. Recently reports show that abuse of prescription drugs, including popular painkillers, are on the rise. 1 in 5 teens has abused a prescription medication and 1 in 10 has gotten high off over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. The 2007 Biden Crime Bill counters this movement by restoring and ratcheting up critical funding for prevention and treatment, authorizing new grant programs that are tailored to emerging drug threats, and shutting down rogue, Internet pharmacies that distill these dangerous drugs without a valid prescription.
* Stop Senseless Gun Violence: Renewing the Assault Weapons Ban and Closing the Gun Show Loophole. The Biden Crime Bill provides for a straight-forward reauthorization of the assault weapons ban that became law in 1994 and it closes the so-called gun show loophole by requiring all gun show sales submit to federal background checks, just like any store-based firearm sale.
* Update Current Law to Keep Up with Changing Technologies: The 2007 Biden Crime Bill also updates federal laws relating to child exploitation and violence against children, drug possession and trafficking, firearms, computer crimes and intellectual property and victims rights.
The 2007 Biden Crime Bill enjoys the support of many leading law enforcement groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations.
Sen. Biden was joined at a press conference unveiling this new legislation by several Chiefs of Police and representatives of local law enforcement from his home state of Delaware: Lt. Colonel Mark Seifert of the Delaware State Police; Major Stewart Snyder of New Castle County Police; Jeff Horvath, Chief of Dover Police; Mike Capriglione, Chief of Newport Police and president of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council; Neal Strauss, Chief of Elsmere Police; Trinidad Navarro of New Castle County Police; Billy Toppings, Chief of Georgetown Police; and Martin Johnson, Coordinator of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council and retired Major from the Delaware State Police.
At the press conference, Sen. Biden also released a report called "Crime in America: The Federal Government's Responsibility to Help Fight Crime in our Communities."