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Preliminary 2005 Uniform Crime Report

Location: Washington, DC

PRELIMINARY 2005 UNIFORM CRIME REPORT -- (Senate - June 16, 2006)

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about a very sobering report just issued by our FBI--its Preliminary 2005 Uniform Crime Report. This is the gold standard of crime reports in our country, taken from statistics by more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies all across our country.

Here is what the report says: Murders are up 4.8 percent. This means that there were 16,900 victims in 2005--16,900 in a single year. This is the most murders since 1998 and the largest percentage increase in 15 years. Violent crime more generally, which also includes forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, rose 2 percent after seeing decreases over the last 3 years.

Some areas of the country were especially hard hit. The Midwest, for example, saw violent crime rise 5.7 percent. Medium-large towns--those with populations between half a million and 1 million--saw an increase in violent crime of 8.3 percent. Murders increased more than 12 percent in towns with populations between 50,000 and 250,000. These troubling increases come after more than a decade of record decreases in crime.

These historic decreases in crime happened for a reason and, I fear, the recent and dramatic increase in murders and violent crime are also happening for a reason.

Let me explain. In 1994, we passed the most sweeping anticrime bill in history. At the time, we faced a national crisis with respect to violent crime. Despite the tough-on-crime rhetoric of the 1980s, the Federal Government until that point had very little impact on crime rates. This is largely because only about 3 percent of all crimes are handled by the Federal Government.

We recognized in 1994 that the only way to seriously address crime in our communities would be to vigorously and consistently support State and local law enforcement. We made a commitment to do just that by creating the Community Oriented Policing Services Program--more commonly known as COPS.

This ambitious new program committed to put more than 100,000 new officers on the streets and to expand the concept of community-oriented policing. Crime rates went down every year for 8 consecutive years. Violent crime was reduced by 26 percent. The murder rate went down by 34 percent.

In just a few short years, Americans went from being afraid to go out on their streets to living in the safest neighborhoods in a generation. By giving State and local law enforcement the support they needed, we were able to improve the lives of millions of Americans.

I recognize there are many factors involved in whether crime rates go up and down and that the COPS Program was not the sole reason for this historic drop in violent crime. At the same time, the legacy of COPS is unmistakable. The Government Accountability Office, GAO, released a report in October 2005 that concluded what many police chiefs and sheriffs have said all along--the COPS Program helps reduce crime. Specifically, the GAO found that ``as a demonstration of whether a federal program can affect crime rates through hiring officers and changing policing practices, the evidence indicates that COPS contributed to declines in crime above the levels of declines that would have been expected without it.'' For every $1 in COPS hiring grant expenditures per capita, there was a reduction of almost 30 index crimes per 100,000 persons.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft called the COPS Program a ``miraculous success.'' But, unfortunately, I fear that some of us have taken our eyes off the ball. Specifically, the Bush administration has forgotten the lessons we learned from the COPS Program. Despite the dramatic and historic COPS successes, President Bush has systematically eliminated the programs that helped to lay the foundation for our low crime rates.

President Bush has proposed to cut support for State and local law enforcement every year for the past 5 years, proposing a budget in 2007 that cut $2 billion in guaranteed funding for State and local law enforcement from the amount we provided only 5 years ago. President Bush has steadily tried to kill the COPS hiring program, routinely trying to zero out all hiring funding.

And Congress has not held the line. During the 1990s, roughly $1 billion per year was allocated for the COPS Program. In 2002, $385 million was allocated to hire officers. That allocation was steadily reduced until last year when, for the first time, funding to hire officers was completely eliminated. Let me repeat: No Federal COPS funding whatsoever to hire officers. Adding insult to injury, President Bush has also proposed to zero out the Byrnes Justice Assistance Grant Program.

From 1994 to 2003, this wildly popular program provided around $900 million per year to our States to improve their criminal justice systems, providing vital resources to our men and women officers. Since 2003, this number has steadily eroded, with President Bush proposing absolutely no funding in his 2007 budget request. And I fear that we are now seeing the results of this vast defunding of the COPS Program and the Byrne Program--a result that was certainly not unpredictable.

Earlier this year, in response to the President's latest budget request, the President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Mary Ann Viverette, stated: ``these cuts 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.''

Many of us in Congress have also tried to raise the warning flags repeatedly. This February, I released a report entitled, ``Abandoning the Front Line: The Bush Administration's Record of Support for State and Local Law Enforcement'' which warned that we need to keep our eye on the ball, otherwise we risk seeing dramatic increases in crime rates.

Another problem facing our local law enforcement agencies is the fact that the FBI is getting out of the crime business. Since 9/11, the number of FBI agents focusing on crime has gone down by over 1,000 agents. As a result, drug investigations have dropped by 60 percent and violent crime investigations have been reduced by 40 percent.

This has created a perfect storm for law enforcement, and I hope that these latest dramatic and troubling crime statistics serve as a wake-up call to Congress and the President.

We must build on the successes of the past; we must never become complacent. When I speak to law enforcement groups on the subject of crime, I make the point that keeping crime rates low is like cutting the grass. You mow your lawn and it looks great. You let it grow for a week, and it starts looking ragged. You let it grow for a month and you have a jungle.

The preliminary numbers released yesterday show that we have not been cutting the grass. In Cleveland, from 1994 to 2001, we spent $3.2 million per year for COPS hiring. From 2002 to 2005, we only spent $875,500 per year. A 2004 news article noted that Cleveland lost 250 officers, a reduction of 15 percent in their force. In their latest crime numbers, murder is up 38 percent; violent crime is up 7 percent. In St. Louis, from 1994 to 2001, we spend $770,000 per year for COPS hiring. From 2002 to 2005, that number was zero. A 2003 study found that St. Louis had lost 168 officers, a reduction of 11 percent in their force. In their latest crime numbers murder is up 16 percent, violent crime up 20 percent. The pattern is, unfortunately, clear.

In Philadelphia from 1994 to 2001, we spent $5,250,000 per year for COPS hiring. From 2002 to 2995, that number was again zero, Last year, I asked the Philadelphia police chief about the number of officers they have lost recently. He said since 2003, they were down 600 officers. In Philadelphia's latest crime numbers, murder is up 14.2 percent, violent crime up 3.4 percent.

Now is the time to see the error in our recent ways. It is my hope that the Appropriations, Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee will see fit to fully fund the COPS Program, the Justice assistance grants, and other critical crime control programs when it reports out its appropriations bill later this summer. If they do not, I will be offering an amendment to restore full funding for the COPS Program. I have done this for the past several years.

The Senate has previously not adopted my amendments, however--with opponents arguing that the COPS Program has worked, so we should kill it, or that it is not a Federal responsibility to fund local law enforcement. Critics will also argue that adding funding to the COPS Program will bust the budget.

I believe that the safety of the American citizens is our No. 1 priority, and I cannot accept the argument that we cannot find funding for local law enforcement at the same time we are giving a tax cut to our nation's millionaires. They did not ask for this tax cut, and I know that they would be willing to give that back in order to keep their communities safer.

The COPS Program helps us prevent both crime and terrorism, and I hope my colleagues will support me in restoring funding for this critical program.

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