Safe Streets: Combining Resources to Address Violent Crime

Article excerpt

"Murder!" "Drive-By Shooting!" "Fatal Carjacking!" These all-too-familiar newspaper headlines appear daily across the country. Violent crime is a harsh reality that threatens communities, large and small alike, throughout America. In his resolution of March 1, 1994, regarding the National Anti-Violent Crime Initiative, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh stressed the tremendous toll violent crime takes on society:

Random and senseless violence, combined with organized criminal enterprises engaging in violence motivated by greed, pose a direct threat to our nation's domestic security. The staggering dimension of this violence strikes fear in the hearts of decent people everywhere. At present, many Americans are held hostage in their homes...Unabated, our country's epidemic of violence, which strikes at the very fabric of our society, threatens future generations of Americans.(1)

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, 24,539 people were murdered in 1993; 70 of these victims were law enforcement officers. In the same year, more than 104,800 rapes occurred, as well as nearly 659,760 robberies and over 1,135,100 aggravated assaults.(2)

Added to these figures is the startling fact that youths are beginning to engage in serious violent activity at a younger age. Last year, news accounts of an 11-year-old in Chicago who reportedly murdered a 14-year-old in cold blood shocked the Nation. The young offender subsequently was killed, allegedly by fellow gang members who feared that he would cooperate with detectives and implicate other gang members. The victims and perpetrators in such cases represent more than just isolated instances of brutality; they project what is fast-emerging as a bleak future for America's youth.(3)

With shrinking budgets, States, counties, cities, and towns must optimize limited resources in order to combat career criminals and the chaos created by their activities. Violent crimes have no boundaries, and violent criminals, no sense of sanctity. Thus, no community is immune from the effects of violent crime. State and local law enforcement agencies have recognized this encroachment of violence in their communities and have taken necessary actions, such as placing more officers on the streets, targeting troubled areas, and instituting innovative community policing programs.

Attorney General Janet Reno's introduction of the National Anti-Violent Crime Initiative has directed Federal law enforcement toward a coordinated and cooperative response to assist State and local authorities. During the past several years, the FBI has developed a successful model to coordinate this collaboration through multijurisdictional task forces known as "Safe Streets." The combination of Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in a unified approach to crime successfully has placed violent criminals where they belong - in prison.

BACKGROUND

The end of the Cold War afforded the FBI an opportunity to enhance its response to the escalating trend of violent crime in America. In January 1992, the FBI elevated its Violent Crime and Major Offenders Program (VCMOP) to a national priority. At this time, the FBI also reassigned 300 special agents from its counter-intelligence program to the VCMOP and announced the Safe Streets initiative within the VCMOP. This initiative established the authority for each special agent-in-charge of the 56 FBI field offices to create FBI-sponsored task forces directed at the national violent crime problem, in cooperation with State and local law enforcement.

The Safe Streets mission is to establish long-term, proactive task forces that focus on violent crimes and the apprehension of violent fugitives. Today's Safe Streets task forces (SSTFs) were modeled on the six successful prototype task forces that have operated in select FBI field offices since 1989.

Currently, 119 task forces operate in 52 field offices and involve over 350 State and local law enforcement agencies. …