Violent Crime's Return to Prominence

March 13, 1981

Report Outline
Question of Crime's Increase
Washington's Changing Strategy
Revival of Gun Control Issue
Special Focus

Question of Crime's Increase

New Federal Emphasis on Street Crime

Americans are being told, and are telling each other, that crime — especially violent crime — is again on the increase. There is statistical evidence to support, and also to challenge, that notion. But regardless of what the crime statistics may or may not show, there is little doubt about the public's perception of crime. It is that crime is very commonplace and threatening.

That thought was confirmed by Attorney General William French Smith in saying the federal government would not neglect “obvious public sentiment” for placing more emphasis on trying to control violent crime. At his first news conference since taking office, Smith on March 5 announced the formation of the Attorney General's Task Force on Violent Crime to determine what could be done by federal authorities. Two prominent persons, former Attorney General Griffin B. Bell and Gov. James R. Thompson of Illinois, were named leaders of this bipartisan group.

What had happened to thrust violent crime back into Washington's public-policy arena? It had not been an issue in the 1980 presidential election, and the federal initiative seemed to run counter to the Reagan administration's aim of reducing the federal role in the nation's life generally, and especially in matters that traditionally have fallen within state or local jurisdiction. Smith, citing statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, offered this rationale: “Last year 30 percent of all households in the United States were touched by some serious crime.” Preliminary data, he continued, indicated 10 percent more violent crime was reported last year than in the year before.

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BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Crime and Law Enforcement
Gun Control