Following the sniper attacks that plagued Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia in the early fall of 2002, gun control advocates intensified their demands that the federal government develop a "ballistic fingerprint" database.
The Bush administration has announced its intention to reach across party lines and look at old problems in new ways. Perhaps nowhere would this strategy reap a greater harvest than in jointly alleviating the 93 percent unemployment rate behind the gates of American prisons and a workforce shortage that threatens American competitiveness.
Ted McGarrell, a criminology professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, has teamed up with the Hudson Institute and the city of Indianapolis to try an experiment that offers something besides jails to control crime. "Restorative justice," a program being tried with youthful first-time offenders, is based on three principles:
Numerous studies have shown that gun shows are not a significant source of guns used in crime. Ignoring this evidence, some gun control activists claim that 70 percent of the guns used in crimes come from shows. And Handgun Control, Inc. asserts that "25-50 percent of the vendors at most gun shows are unlicensed dealers."
Texas' criminal justice system has been undeservedly criticized, partly for political reasons and partly by those who oppose the state's whole approach to crime and punishment, particularly on such issues as the death penalty and the right of qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. Although many of these critics maintain that Texas has the wrong approach to criminal justice, crime fell sharply in Texas during the 1990s.
In 1994, Texas citizens approved a nonbinding resolution asking the state to grant Texans the right to carry concealed weapons. Gov. Ann Richards had vetoed such a bill prior to the vote and vowed that no such bill would pass while she was governor. By contrast, her opponent in the race for governor, George W. Bush, said that if elected he would sign an appropriately structured "right-to-carry" law. Bush won the election and on May 26, 1995, signed a law granting Texans the right to carry concealed firearms. When he did so, Texas joined 22 other states that since 1986 have made it legal to carry concealed weapons.
The probation and parole systems could be made more effective and efficient by enlisting the private sector. Those released on probation (nonincarceration) or released early from prison could be required to post a financial bond guaranteeing behavior in accord with terms of the release. If individual accountability is the answer to crime, then it must include the most powerful kind of accountability: financial responsibility.
Serious crime in the United States continued to fall in 1998. Whether measured as a rate (number of crimes per capita) or in absolute terms, every category of violent crime and burglary decreased from 1997.
What explains the sudden decline in crime after a long rise? Better economic conditions? Cultural changes? A more convincing explanation is at hand: Courts have been handing out tougher punishment for crime, and potential criminals know and fear it.
The U.S. Supreme Court's 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona created a series of procedural requirements that law enforcement officials must follow before questioning suspects in custody. Miranda has, as its critics charge, "handcuffed the cops." It is time to consider removing these shackles and regulating police interrogation in less costly ways.
The amount of serious crime has decreased in most towns and cities across the country. New York City, for example, had fewer than 1,000 murders in 1996, the lowest number in nearly 30 years. Overall crime has dropped by half in Houston during the past six years, and violent crimes there are down by two-thirds.
Since 1986 the number of states in which it is legal to carry concealed weapons has grown from nine to 31, representing 49 percent of the country's population. Should we feel safer?
At least 170 million people – and perhaps as many as 360 million – have been murdered by their own governments in this century. This is more than four times the 42 million deaths from civil and international wars.
After soaring to alarming heights beginning in the 1960s, serious crime in the United States began leveling off in the 1980s and has declined for the past three years. Every category of violent crime has decreased since 1993.
Violent crimes committed by adults are declining, primarily because state and local governments are increasing punishment for these offenses. By contrast, the number of violent crimes committed by teenagers has doubled over the last decade, and the FBI predicts another doubling in the next 10 years.
There is a bipartisan consensus in Washington that youth crime, particularly violent youth crime, is a real problem that threatens to grow over the next decade. This consensus makes it highly likely that President Clinton will sign some version of a new federal juvenile crime bill this year – unusual only because Congress traditionally has passed crime legislation in even-numbered (read: election) years. Congress expects to do at the federal level what many states have already done: toughen the treatment of young criminals, who have regarded the juvenile justice system as a joke for at least the last decade.
Despite a consensus of the American public that prison inmates should be gainfully employed, most are idle. Their idleness contrasts sharply with the circumstances of their 19th-century counterparts. This study analyzes the American experience of private employment of prisoners and concludes that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Expanding the role of the private sector in prison work would reduce crime, increase economic growth and reduce the burden of the criminal justice system on taxpayers.
Texas, which suffered from a 29 percent increase in the rate of serious crime during the 1980s, is experiencing a dramatic improvement in the 1990s.
Since the ability to rapidly mobilize large numbers of trained law enforcement authorities is vital to stopping a riot, one solution is greater use of reserve law enforcement officers in an emergency.
Serious crime in the United States exploded during the 1960s and 1970s. It began to level off during the 1980s and has actually declined in the 1990s; however, the rate of serious crime remains three times higher than in 1960.
The new Congress should decentralize decisions on crime. It can do so by repealing both the entire Clinton Crime Control Act of 1994 and the Brady Gun Control Law. Then it should repeal the federal habeas corpus procedure, subsidies for death penalty appeal centers and the legal authority for state prisoners to pursue law suits willy nilly in federal courts.
Is the public's mounting fear of crime justified? For the most part, the answer is yes. There are at least 10 things to know about crime in America today.
President Clinton has blamed the defeat of the crime bill on obstructionist Republicans and the National Rifle Association, and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives is threatening to force another vote. If they do so, the bill deserves to be defeated a second time.
Since 1965, the share of gross domestic product (GDP) devoted to the U.S. criminal justice system has more than doubled. Yet the amount of crime reported to the police is near an all-time high and the amount of violent crime reported is at an all-time high. Perhaps it is time to consider turning more of the criminal justice burden over to the more efficient, innovative private sector, which already plays an important part in the system.
America is burdened by an appalling amount of crime. Although the crime rate is not soaring as it did during the 1960s and 1970s, we still have more crimes per capita than any other developed country.