The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Robert Mueller III, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing today. U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, who serves on the Committee, raised concerns about an uptick in violent crime in smaller cities and rural areas even as urban crime rates have dropped in many states. In Wisconsin, numbers released by the FBI yesterday showed a three percent decrease in the overall crime rate and a 20% decrease in murders since 2007. However, Kohl is concerned that in La Crosse, violent crimes increased over the past four years from 99 in 2005 to 206 in 2008; in Racine, violent crimes increased from 391 in 2005 to 542 in 2008; in Madison violent crimes increased from 391 in 2005 to 542 in 2008.
"We were pleased by the numbers released yesterday which showed a decrease in the overall crime rate in Wisconsin and a dramatic decrease in the number of murders. Much of the decrease appears to be attributed to the drop in crime in Milwaukee -- a remarkable achievement -- but that means we have seen smaller decreases and in some cases increases in violent crime in other parts of Wisconsin. What is the FBI doing to focus its efforts on violent crime in smaller cities and rural communities?" Kohl asked.
Director Mueller indicated that the causes of the increase in crime vary from city to city, sometimes the result of gang activity and other times due to generalized crime. He pointed to FBI programs that are critical to fighting crime in different areas, citing nearly 200 violent gang task forces and almost 2,100 agents working against gangs and generalized crime.
Kohl urged Director Mueller to explore ways to improve federal support and coordination between the FBI and local law enforcement, particularly through the FBI's regional satellite offices. He also praised the current coordination between the FBI and the Racine Police and Sheriff Departments.
"FBI coordination with state and local law enforcement is a critical component of fighting and preventing crime. For example, FBI agents are currently working with the Racine Police Department and Sheriff's Office to target violent street gangs and drug trafficking organizations operating within the Racine area. Their presence in the community is also important to further principles of community policing that have been successful."