Local Officials Gather to Address Rise in Violent Crime

Article excerpt

A sharp rise in violent crime in many cities across the country demands national attention and collaborative action.

That was one of the major conclusions that emerged from a National Violent Crime Summit which drew more than 150 individuals representing 59 cities and counties to Washington, D.C., last week. The summit was organized by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback, one of the driving forces behind the summit, said the day-long conversation helped him realize that he wasn't alone.

"Minneapolis has a problem with violent crime," Ryback said as the summit wrapped up. "But I now know that our city is not alone. This is a national problem. I'm not sure whether that's comforting or disturbing."

Police leaders and several mayors from communities as small as Appleton, Wis., to New York shared data and perspectives about the rise in violent crime focusing particularly on murders and armed robberies. They concluded that solutions would come from a combination of strategic policing to confront crime in city streets and political leadership to deal with root causes.

Dean Esserman, police chief from Providence, R.I., said long-term solutions require a broad vision and a national commitment.

"We lose 16,000 Americans every year to murder and seem to accept the fact that we are burying our children," Esserman said. "Where's the moral outrage? America has become a Cyclops which pivots and doesn't see the big picture. We invested in public safety in the 1990s and produced results. Then, the Cyclops pivoted at the end of the 20th century and we forgot what we needed to focus on."

Law enforcement leaders pointed to gangs, the influence of pop culture, the availability of handguns, and truancy as key factors in the rise in violent crime among young people.

In Charlotte, N.C., the police department works directly with the school system to deal with the truancy issue.

"We've put a truancy officer in the schools along with the school resource officer to try to focus on what's going on with these kids who aren't coming to school," said Deputy Police Chief Dave Stephens. …