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Dubuque Telegraph Herald - Fighting Crime at Home and Abroad

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald - Fighting Crime at Home and Abroad

Dubuque Telegraph Herald

By U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

As we combat terrorism around the world, fighting crime in our own backyards should not take a back seat. But a report recently released by the FBI shows it has.

Here in Iowa, violent crime was up 5.7 percent. There were 16,662 murders in our nation's cities and towns last year, representing a 3.4 percent increase - the largest in 15 years.

This troubling jump comes after more than a decade of historic reductions. No one factor is the cause, but it is clear President Bush's decision to cut billions of dollars for state and local law enforcement, and the FBI's shifting focus towards counter-terrorism, has had a major impact.

Back in the early 1990s we faced a similar national crisis. At that time, we recognized the only way to seriously address crime was for the federal government to support state and local law enforcement.

In 1994, I came up with the idea for the Community Oriented Policing Services Program, otherwise known as COPS. This successful program has provided more than $2 billion in federal resources for state and local law enforcement and has placed more than 118,000 cops across the country, including 700 in Iowa. In addition, COPS has also provided much-needed funds for crime prevention programs, technology, and drug task forces.

With this help, local agencies were able to work with community leaders and at-risk youth to stop crime before it happened. We also enacted tough federal sentences and provided prison funding to get violent offenders off the street.

It worked. Crime rates went down every year for eight consecutive years. Violent crime was reduced by 26 percent. Americans went from being afraid to go out on their streets to living in the safest neighborhoods in a generation. Despite this success, President Bush systematically eliminated the COPS program and other funding streams.

And the President has not replaced FBI agents who have been transitioned from working criminal cases to counter-terrorism. Since 9/11, the number of FBI agents focusing on crime has been reduced by over 1,000 agents. As a result, drug investigations have dropped by 60 percent, which doesn't help Iowans fighting to keep meth for being trafficked into your state.

It's time to change our priorities. I have proposed creating a $10 billion Homeland Security Trust Fund that would hire 50,000 cops, 1,000 FBI agents, and implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Furthermore, we could screen 100 percent of cargo containers coming into our ports; better protect our chemical facilities; and make sure our first responders have the technology they need to talk to one another in emergencies, if this Trust Fund were established.

I propose paying for these measures by taking back part of the Bush tax cuts for people making over a million dollars a year and placing that money in this Homeland Security Trust Fund. This year alone President Bush is giving more than $60 billion in tax cuts to millionaires, almost double the budget for the Department of Homeland Security.

The President has forgotten that local law enforcement also is our first line of defense against terrorism. It won't be a special forces soldier wearing night vision goggles who finds the terrorist putting a bomb in a dumpster. It will be the local cop.

The women and men fighting this war on terror overseas should not have to return to find their neighborhoods overrun with criminals and meth labs. We must be able to protect our citizens at home while also protecting our nation overseas. Our service people and our nation deserve better.

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