BOSTON —Today, while addressing the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced the launch of the Initiative for Safer Communities to target violent crime prevention efforts in selected communities across America that have shown unexplained increases in crime.
Though the national crime rate generally remained at record low levels across the nation in 2005, some cities experienced an increase in certain types of violent crimes, according to FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) surveys. The first stage of the three-part Initiative, to begin over the next several weeks, will investigate the increase in crime experienced by representative cities. In this phase, DOJ will conduct a detailed survey and visit local law enforcement in impacted areas to identify possible factors contributing to the increase.
The second phase of the Initiative will focus on policy development by analyzing the findings of the investigative phase to identify the roots of the localized increases in crime. The third phase will focus on matching localized results with established federal programs that are proven to be effective in combating crime and, where necessary, creating new initiatives.
“The Department of Justice is committed to making sure that every American city and town can share in the success of low violent crime rates,” said Attorney General Gonzales. “The Initiative for Safer Communities will help us find and use the tools that work most effectively to fight crime and keep our communities safe."
The cities to be examined in the investigative phase of the Initiative are still being finalized, but both cities which have experienced increases in crime and significant decreases in crime will be studied, in order to best ascertain which crime-prevention tactics have been most effective. Local law enforcement leaders will be asked questions regarding a variety of demographic, economic, and social matters which could affect the crime rate, including whether gang violence, drug trafficking, or prisoner re-entry have caused changes in criminal activity. They will also be asked about whether there are specific federal, state or local initiatives that have successfully cut the crime rate.
Crime rates in 2005, as measured by the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), show crime rates at near-record low levels in 2005. The NCVS, based on household surveys, shows violent and property crime rates that are at the lowest levels recorded since the survey’s inception in 1973. The UCR, based on police reports, indicates that property crime decreased 2.4 percent in 2005.
However, some cities experienced an increase in homicides in 2005 and there was a 1.3 percent increase in violent crime across the nation. Though this rate is lower than any year ever measured except for 2004, the Department of Justice is launching the Initiative for Safer Communities as a proactive measure to help thwart further increases in the rates of violent crime and homicide.