The Role of Local Government in Community Safety (Paperback)
In recent years, mayors and municipal leaders throughout the United States have confronted increasing problems of community safety. These problems have affected not only urban centers but also small towns and rural municipalities. Many other countries have experienced similar rapid increases in crime that have only begun to decline in the past few years. The response of many governments has been to toughen their legal and justice systems, increasing policing capacities and penalties. Despite these efforts, the social and economic consequences of crime have been enormous: Expenditures on law enforcement have increased tremendously. Criminal sentences have become tougher; The number of offenders prosecuted and incarcerated has risen dramatically; Private security personnel have outstripped official law enforcement; Communities increasingly have resorted to fortifying neighborhoods; Crime has reduced the tax base of cities by driving out residents and businesses. Traditionally, the public has viewed crime reduction as the responsibility of the police and the courts. However, in spite of increased expenditures, these institutions have been unable to contain the epidemic of crime. The result has been a loss of confidence in criminal justice systems and high levels of public concern about crime. Migration, rapid changes in populations, rising poverty levels, and income disparities continue to affect many countries. Crime prevention, rather than reaction or repression, has generally played a very minor role in addressing crime problems. To have an impact on current crime problems and avoid even greater problems in the future, a more balanced approach and perceptual shift by society are necessary. This monograph was prepared for mayors, city managers, planners, and elected officials. It brings together information from around the United States and around the world on ways that public officials have used their authority to foster safer, healthier communities. More specifically, it outlines the following: Why change is necessary; Why communities can no longer leave safety to only the criminal justice system; How knowledge about the factors that lead to crime and insecurity has increased; How knowledge about how citizens can intervene effectively has increased; The leadership, strategies, and tools needed to bring about change; Examples of city-led projects; Lessons learned from past practice.