Communities vs. Crime

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released statistics showing that serious and violent crime dropped in the first half of last year. What's remarkable is these rates have been dropping steadily for five years - the longest decline in 25 years.

Naturally, just about everyone is encouraged, even those who in the past have been concerned that the declining crime rate was just a blip on the statistical screen and soon would head back up again.

Analysts give a number of reasons for this trend: more police officers on the street; the more aggressive and sophisticated tactics employed by police departments nationwide, particularly in larger cities; implementation of the Brady gun-control law; a relatively small number of teenagers, the age-group widely considered most crime-prone; and a renewed emphasis on fighting drugs. They also point out that no single strategy is the answer to reducing crime.

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But what's most encouraging, to us, is one of the factors that is making a difference: communities working together. Anticrime activists in Seattle recently told the Monitor that residents there have become more community-focused, and this in turn has helped the police. Officers visit schools to warn young people about the dangers of guns. They go to the homes of teens who are in trouble and talk with their parents. Last year the number of homicides in Seattle dropped by 40 percent.

In another Monitor article, William Bratton, former police commissioner of Boston and New York, said, "We've found that in partnership we can strengthen our ability to deal with the problems that lead to crime. Police are back big time ... [but] their actions are only part of a continuum."

The article describes how social workers, prosecutors, police, church leaders, and neighborhood groups in Boston and elsewhere have begun to work together, to put their collective resources on the table. Crucial to this process are ordinary people, who want to make a difference and realize they can. They're not helpless to stop crime. There are statistics to prove it.

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