A new report from a national police membership organization says there are indications that violent crime in the first half of 2007 is down overall with one caveat: many jurisdictions are still reporting increases in violent crime.
When the same sample of 56 jurisdictions used in PERF’s previous surveys are analyzed, aggregate crime levels reported by police agencies for the first six months of 2007 show overall reductions in homicides and other violent crimes. Importantly, however, there are still many jurisdictions reporting increases in violent crime.
As the authors note, the report is an attempt to answer why a certain violent crime is down in one city, yet is on the rise in another.
Even more bewildering, says the report, is the Jekyll-and-Hyde-nature of violent crime within some cities, with police reporting a decrease in some types of violent crime, but not others. Philadelphia, for example, reported a 9 percent increase in murder but an 8 percent slide in aggravated assault during the first six months of 2007.
Police officers surveyed for the report said the most important factor contributing to violent crime was gangs, followed by youth crime, impulsive violence or "disrespect" issues, poverty, and the release of offenders from prison back into the community.
The most important tactic to suppress violent crime, according to those surveyed, was "hot spot" enforcement, which means saturating high-crime areas with more police officers, commonly referred to as "putting cops on the dots." Other anti-violence initiatives most popular among police were community policing initiatives, problem-solving policing, interdepartment cooperation, and gang suppression.
PERF says its goal is to change the way people look at crime and policing.
[W]e want to steer policing toward a “National Compstat” approach—using accurate, timely information to track crime as it happens, to search for pockets of violence wherever and whenever they occur, and to react quickly. In a sense, we believe that police leaders should act more like public health epidemiologists, who don’t wait for a pandemic to overtake the nation, with hundreds or thousands of people dead, before they sound an alarm and start implementing countermeasures.
PERF's report is the third in a series trying to understand the recent increase in violent crime since 2005, after more than a decade of decline starting in 1992.