Holder's Strength Will Weaken Crime

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Byline: Adrienne T. Washington, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Barely into the new year, we've seen troubling video of suspicious shootings by police officers in New Orleans and in Oakland, Calif., that sparked a fiery protest and resulted in at least three dozen arrests. Baltimore and D.C. residents already have seen spikes in their homicide rates.

The crimes happened just weeks after the release of a disturbing Northeastern University study called The Recent Surge in Homicides Involving Young Black Males and Guns: Time to Reinvest in Prevention and Crime Control.

Federal support for policing and youth violence prevention has declined sharply in recent years, perhaps precipitated by complacency brought about by the significant 1990s decline in crime, said professors James Alan Fox and Marc L. Swatt, who authored the study based on Justice Department statistics. The resurgence in homicide, especially among minority youth, signals the importance of restoring federal funds for crime prevention and crime control.

Law enforcement officials and researchers generally agree that crime rises as economic times toughen, especially in communities already stressed by poverty and unemployment.

Who aside from the next U.S. attorney general, the nation's top law enforcement official, will have to tackle this impending uptick?

The hardest questions posed to the nominee for the post, Eric H. Holder Jr., during his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, should focus on his approach to stemming resurgent crime.

Will Mr. Holder - the former deputy attorney general, U.S. attorney for the District and D.C. Superior Court judge who now defends corporations and high-profile clients in a posh downtown D.C. law firm - be soft on crime? Will Mr. Holder administer justice fairly, or have one standard for white-collar crime and a tougher one for street crime?

Knowing him from his days dealing with D.C. courts and criminals, I'd submit that the answers are most likely no and no.

Don't look for any favors from Mr. Holder, said Billy Martin, a former federal prosecutor turned high-profile defense attorney who most recently represented football star Michael Vick in his dogfighting case. Eric does not give you anything as a prosecutor.

Mr. Martin said Mr. Holder got his props and recognition as a tough prosecutor during the Abscam corruption trials of the early 1980s. He's always firm and fair, and he has a reputation as a tough prosecutor on white-collar crime as well as street crime, Mr. Martin said. He prosecutes the facts, not the person.

However, Republicans such as Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are gunning for Mr. Holder, and his Cabinet confirmation is viewed as the most difficult among President-elect Barack Obama's nominees.

I heard people speak only of Mr. Holder's integrity. Others have raised Mr. Holder's involvement, or lack thereof, in President Clinton's last-minute pardon of Marc Rich, the fugitive financier. Mr. Holder has acknowledged slight culpability in this case, which undoubtedly will receive more scrutiny. …