A storm is brewing...

     "We are sacrificing hometown security for homeland security."

     This statement is a quote from Trenton, New Jersey, Mayor Douglas Palmer as printed in the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) publication, "Chief Concerns: A Gathering Storm -- Violent Crime in America."

     The FBI recently released its 2006 crime stats and it appears Palmer may be right. Violent crime rose nearly 2 percent last year, marking the second consecutive year these numbers have gone up.

     Earlier this year, the Department of Justice blamed the crime wave on gangs, guns and youth violence. In turn, the Bush administration pledged to spend $50 million to combat gangs and guns, and adopt new laws allowing the federal government to better investigate and prosecute crime.

     But perhaps there are different forces at work here. While it's unrealistic to expect crime to continue dropping as sharply as it did in the 1990s, perhaps the recent surge is due to something the federal government has a direct hand in -- funding for law enforcement. Just maybe the increase directly correlates to a decrease in funding.

     Right now funds previously directed to local law enforcement during the Clinton administration are being funneled to homeland security initiatives, leaving many mid- to small-sized departments without the financial support they need.

     In the PERF document, Police Chief Edward Flynn calls homeland security "the monster that ate criminal justice." He warns that local police departments cannot be effective homeland security partners if they are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of their core mission.

     PERF cites a decrease in police department staffing levels, strained police resources, the focus on homeland security and away from local law enforcement issues, and decreased federal involvement in crime prevention and community policing among the factors influencing the rise in violent crime.

     Yes, something needs to be done to curb the swell of violent crime sweeping across our nation. But law enforcement cannot go it alone without adequate funding and manpower. There's a storm brewing in America, and it's time lawmakers took a detailed look at it.

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