CONGRESSMAN PAT TIBERI'S CAPITOL NOTEBOOK
WASHINGTON-The federal government announced last week that it will provide special aid to the City of Columbus, aid all of us wish we didn't need.
Attorney General John Ashcroft is sending law enforcement teams to Columbus and 14 other cities with particularly high rates of violent crime. They'll be heading right into the neighborhoods-what Ashcroft called "the hottest zones" for crime-to assist local law enforcement in reducing the number of violent offenses.
If you've picked up a paper or turned on a TV newscast, you know that the homicide rate in Columbus is approaching crisis proportions. According to recently released FBI statistics, the number of murders jumped from 81 in 2002 to 109 last year, a 35% increase. While the City of Cleveland had just about the same number of murders in 2002, the tally there actually decreased last year to 73.
In co-operation with local law enforcement, the federal government is acting to reverse that trend in Columbus. The team being sent to Columbus will include personnel from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Justice Department prosecutors.
Reducing crimes involving guns will be a top priority. Here's the strategy for the six-month program:
Use technology and human intelligence to identify geographic areas with violent firearms crime.
Identify and target the worst violent offenders, the criminal organizations that support them, and determine how many of them are armed career criminals.
Use criminal investigations as well as investigative tools and resources to disrupt and dismantle criminal activity being perpetrated by the targeted individuals and organizations.
Arrest and prosecute the targeted individuals and their associates in the federal or state jurisdiction that lends itself to the most appropriate penalty.
Work with community leaders to cultivate solid and sustained commitment between the community's residents and law enforcement.
Evaluate results on a monthly basis.
How much will this effort cost? The figures aren't available yet. While I'm obviously concerned about spending money wisely, anything we can do to save lives in our neighborhoods, particularly among our youth and other vulnerable populations, will be money well spent. Remember, too, that while violent crime is not a looming crisis in areas surrounding Columbus, it could spread and become one if we don't assist the city in addressing it right now.
The aid from Washington is needed and welcome.