Public-safety gains endangered by decreased federal funding of crime research

04/19/04

WASHINGTON- Gains in public safety from dramatic drops in crime over the last decade are at risk because of cuts in federal support for crime-related research, the president of the American Academy of Political and Social Science said today.

The 2004 federal budget marks a 35-year low in funding for research into ways police can prevent crimes, according to Lawrence W. Sherman, AAPSS president and director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania.

After receiving as much as $15 million per year in police research in the 1990s, the National Institute of Justice budget for all social-science research was cut in 2004 to $5 million. This works out to less than 2 cents per American per year for developing and evaluating ways to prevent crime, Sherman said.

"Despite the demonstrated success of police research in reducing crime in America, Congress has made short-sighted cuts in funding for such research," Sherman said.

Summarizing the results of three decades of police research described in the May volume of the AAPSS Annals, Sherman said, "Social science has helped police focus on high-risk places and high-risk times as the key strategy for crime prevention. Sherman's remarks came at a news conference held at the National Press Club in Washington.

At the news conference, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske stressed the importance to local police agencies of research supported by federal dollars.

Policing research "has provided critical information on what works to impact crime and disorder and has helped ensure that police departments do not waste shrinking local resources on ill-advised approaches."

Of particular importance, Kerlikowske said, have been insights into juvenile crime provided by researchers.

"Research gives us the proven programs to prevent our youth from entering the criminal-justice system."

"The dramatic decline in crime between 1993, when urban homicide rates peaked, and 2001, when they bottomed out," Sherman said, "is in part attributable to the dramatic growth in the nation's knowledge about the causes and prevention of crime."

This knowledge, he said, was generated by a surge in criminological research that far surpassed that of the prior 200 years. Much of that research was funded by the NIJ and put into practice by police officers across the country.

In order to consolidate the gains against crime, Sherman proposed that Congress spend a dollar per year per American to create social-science research centers for the police in every state and every major city. The proposal, detailed in the May volume of the Annals, would make research more accessible to police and make its value more visible to Congress, Sherman said.

"Unless the nation restores the critically important flow of new research on what works in policing," Sherman said, "there is a risk that we will be unprepared for rapid changes in crime that could cost many American lives."

Despite the drop in crime, Sherman said, more than 15,000 people were murdered in America in 2003, far more than have ever been killed here by terrorism.

Sherman and Kerlikowske were joined at the press briefing by Wesley Skogan of the Department of Political Science and the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, who has conducted extensive research on community policing in partnership with the Chicago Police Department.

Sherman, a professor of human relations at Penn, is president of the International Society of Criminology, past president of the American Society of Criminology and director of a social-science research consortium for the British government in partnership with New Scotland Yard.

WASHINGTON- Gains in public safety from dramatic drops in crime over the last decade are at risk because of cuts in federal support for crime-related research, the president of the American Academy of Political and Social Science said today.

The 2004 federal budget marks a 35-year low in funding for research into ways police can prevent crimes, according to Lawrence W. Sherman, AAPSS president and director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania.

After receiving as much as $15 million per year in police research in the 1990s, the National Institute of Justice budget for all social-science research was cut in 2004 to $5 million. This works out to less than 2 cents per American per year for developing and evaluating ways to prevent crime, Sherman said.

"Despite the demonstrated success of police research in reducing crime in America, Congress has made short-sighted cuts in funding for such research," Sherman said.

Summarizing the results of three decades of police research described in the May volume of the AAPSS Annals, Sherman said, "Social science has helped police focus on high-risk places and high-risk times as the key strategy for crime prevention. Sherman's remarks came at a news conference held at the National Press Club in Washington.

At the news conference, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske stressed the importance to local police agencies of research supported by federal dollars.

Policing research "has provided critical information on what works to impact crime and disorder and has helped ensure that police departments do not waste shrinking local resources on ill-advised approaches."

Of particular importance, Kerlikowske said, have been insights into juvenile crime provided by researchers.

"Research gives us the proven programs to prevent our youth from entering the criminal-justice system."

"The dramatic decline in crime between 1993, when urban homicide rates peaked, and 2001, when they bottomed out," Sherman said, "is in part attributable to the dramatic growth in the nation's knowledge about the causes and prevention of crime."

This knowledge, he said, was generated by a surge in criminological research that far surpassed that of the prior 200 years. Much of that research was funded by the NIJ and put into practice by police officers across the country.

In order to consolidate the gains against crime, Sherman proposed that Congress spend a dollar per year per American to create social-science research centers for the police in every state and every major city. The proposal, detailed in the May volume of the Annals, would make research more accessible to police and make its value more visible to Congress, Sherman said.

"Unless the nation restores the critically important flow of new research on what works in policing," Sherman said, "there is a risk that we will be unprepared for rapid changes in crime that could cost many American lives."

Despite the drop in crime, Sherman said, more than 15,000 people were murdered in America in 2003, far more than have ever been killed here by terrorism.

Sherman and Kerlikowske were joined at the press briefing by Wesley Skogan of the Department of Political Science and the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, who has conducted extensive research on community policing in partnership with the Chicago Police Department.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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