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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 27, 2022  Crime in America
Feb. 10, 2017  Forensic Science Controversies
Feb. 05, 2016  Restorative Justice
Jan. 30, 2015  Central American Gangs
Aug. 29, 2014  Transnational Crime
Aug. 09, 2013  Sexual Assault in the Military
Oct. 26, 2012  Mexico's Future
Apr. 20, 2012  Criminal Records and Employment
Apr. 19, 2011  Honor Killings
Sep. 2010  Crime in Latin America
Jul. 16, 2010  Gangs in the U.S.
Jul. 17, 2009  Examining Forensics
Apr. 17, 2009  Wrongful Convictions Updated
Feb. 08, 2008  Fighting Crime
Oct. 11, 2002  Corporate Crime
Apr. 04, 1997  Declining Crime Rates
Dec. 10, 1982  Arson: America's Most Costly Crime
May 07, 1982  Helping Victims of Crime
Mar. 13, 1981  Violent Crime's Return to Prominence
Jul. 15, 1977  Crime Reduction: Reality or Illusion
Jan. 19, 1972  Crime of Rape
Jan. 22, 1969  Street Crime in America
Jan. 17, 1968  Burglary Prevention
Sep. 22, 1965  Compensation for Victims of Crime
Feb. 17, 1965  Criminal Justice and Crime Control
Oct. 18, 1961  Control of City Crime
Jun. 20, 1929  Crime and the Courts
Crime and Law Enforcement
Gun Control