December 15, 1996 | Commentary on Crime
Plenty, according to a recent study by former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III and Heritage Foundation Deputy Director of Domestic Policy Studies Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D. The two have outlined a common-sense management plan that puts local officials in charge of their own reforms. For starters, Meese and Moffit say, hire the best qualified police officers and then have them patrol the high crime neighborhoods. Sound too simple? It worked in crime-ravaged New York City.
Since 1993, the "Big Apple" saw a 36 percent drop in serious crimes, including a 44 percent drop in auto theft and a 45 percent drop in murder. William Bratton, the New York City police commissioner and architect of the improvements, insisted on simple, relatively inexpensive reforms such as police officers walking the beat in their patrol areas instead of sitting in a station house filling out paperwork, and a zero-tolerance policy for graffiti and public drunkenness.
"You don't need to have a bigger policy budget and more overtime to fight crime, just a commitment to the community," Moffit says. Every policy department -- large or small -- can:
Of course, it doesn't help matters when courts practice "revolving door" justice, allowing criminals back on the streets. Meese and Moffit say lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels should block the appointment of judges who place the rights of criminals over the rights of victims. For state and local officials the heart of police reform is personnel management: knowing where to assign extra police officers, providing adequate training and hiring only the best and the brightest. "These back-to-basics reforms rely on innovative policing -- not more federal money -- and will have a real affect on fighting crime," Moffit says.
The amazing thing is not that the war on crime can be won by such common-sense measures. The amazing thing is that communities -- large and small -- haven't been doing these things all along.