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Kohl Column: Crime Prevention Month


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October is Crime Prevention Month and provides a good opportunity to assess federal, state and local efforts to protect our communities. Striking the right balance includes hard work at preventing truancy and gang activity, cracking down on drug trafficking, providing safe and constructive after-school programs for at-risk kids and ensuring that police officers have the resources they need to do their jobs. It also means forging a partnership between local law enforcement and the neighborhoods they protect. I've been working with my colleagues in Congress on these and other measures to protect communities in

In the past year we have seen a decrease in the overall crime rate in Wisconsin. Much of the decrease can be attributed to a 12.3% drop in crime in Milwaukee. While I am extremely pleased with this achievement, state and local law enforcement need our continued federal commitment in order to sustain this decrease. Local law enforcement is fighting against the tide of problems that rise in the face of economic hardship and joblessness at the same time their budgets are shrinking. In addition, we must renew our focus on rural and small city crime prevention where in recent months we have not seen such dramatic reductions, and in some cases we have even seen increases. One way to continue the important work of prevention is by renewing our commitment to the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

The COPS program, initially created as part of the 1994 Crime Bill, has funded more than 100,000 community police officers across the country. Many experts cite this program as an important factor in driving down crime for eight consecutive years in the 1990s. Police Chiefs and Sheriffs across Wisconsin can testify to the program's success in bolstering their force, providing needed technological upgrades and giving them a presence in troubled schools.

Beginning in 2001, however, cuts to the COPS budget crippled the program; despite bipartisan efforts in Congress to prevent those cuts, the hiring portion of the program was eliminated by 2005. I serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee with oversight of the Department of Justice and have long fought to restore funding for the COPS program to healthy levels.

In order to restore this much needed funding, I introduced the COPS Improvement Act of 2009, authorizing $1.15 billion per year over the next six years for the community policing program in order to put more officers in our neighborhoods. This legislation will re-establish our commitment to local law enforcement by setting up the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services as a distinct office within the Department of Justice. It will re-authorize hiring programs to increase general community policing, local counter-terrorism officers, and school resource officers. Additionally, the bill reauthorizes funds for technology grants, community prosecutors, and makes critical improvements to ensure efficient grant management and to eliminate waste. Not only does the program make our communities safer, but it is a proven method of cost-effective job creation.

The Brookings Institution found "COPS…to be one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime." I couldn't agree more and that is why I am working to help prevent crime and put more police officers in our neighborhoods and our communities.

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