Violent Crime and Community Involvement

By Brown, Lee | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, May 1992 | Go to article overview

Violent Crime and Community Involvement


Brown, Lee, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Every police administrator in the United States recognizes violence as an issue of national concern. Yet, it is a problem that individual police agencies cannot hope to deal with successfully on their own.

In fact, the general epidemic of violence sweeping America goes so deep that leading research institutions view it as a disease. The Federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reports, for example, that the homicide rate among black males, ages 15 to 24, rose by two-thirds in the last 5 years. Homicide ranks as the leading cause of death among black males ages 15 to 24, accounting for 42 percent of all deaths in this group. And, firearms are used in 78 percent of these homicides.

Furthermore, the report by the Centers for Disease Control lists a number of contributing factors to these alarming statistics, namely, "immediate access to firearms, alcohol and substance abuse, drug trafficking, poverty, racial discrimination, and cultural acceptance of violent behavior."

It is not only alarming but also depressing that society now tracks and measures homicides by age and ethnic groupings much like medical personnel tracked and measured diseases like polio and malaria. And, while I'm not a doctor of medicine, I am a doctor of criminal justice. So, I can state with conviction that if the mosquito serves as the agent of malaria, then the illegal gun is surely the agent of homicide.

Public health officials eventually realized that the way to combat malaria was not to swat mosquitos but to drain the swamp. Unfortunately, eliminating the agents of homicide - the illegal guns - presents a more formidable task. For example, although the New York City Police Department (NYPD) confiscated 17,575 illegal guns in 1990, it is only "swatting mosquitos."

Other States house the swamps, where just about anyone can buy a handgun without much effort. Therefore, controlling guns requires draining the swamps. And that can be accomplished only through tough Federal gun legislation.

At the same time, the other contributing factors to record-setting homicide rates - alcohol and drug abuse, drug trafficking, poverty, racial discrimination, and cultural acceptance of violent behavior - go beyond the borders of any city or State. These issues also need to be addressed in order to combat crime and violence. In this respect, one thing is certain. Local police agencies cannot do it alone. They need to build a partnership with their communities through community policing.

This article(1) addresses how the police need to form partnerships within the community to combat the pervasive violence in America. It also stresses the need for police executives to recognize their new importance in society.

Police-Community Partnerships

Now, more than any other time in the Nation's history, society calls upon the police officer to cope with the collapse of a range of social institutions - a collapse that would have seemed unimaginable to the Nation's leaders of just a generation ago. Today's police officers contend with the debris of social and institutional collapse.

This includes the failure of primary and secondary schools in so many of the Nation's urban centers. It encompasses the collapse of affordable health services and affordable housing. It is marked by a dearth of residential care for people who are severely mentally ill.

In addition, the deterioration of the traditional family structure, the ultimate safety net, contributes to society's woes, with more and more American households headed by single women with children, living in poverty. Without question, the uncertainties and instability that stem from these social and institutional failures make more demands on the law enforcement profession than ever before.

Clearly, in order to make a difference and in order to get a handle on violence or any other serious problem in the community, the police must form working partnerships within the community. …

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