Government seeking trends in cities' rising crime

Monday, October 16th 2006, 9:59 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ The Justice Department will study local crime rates in selected cities to see why homicides and other violent criminal activity is on the rise nationally, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Monday.

The government's survey of an unidentified number of cities will look for trends in gang violence, drug trafficking, and released prisoners returning to society that may have contributed to the increase.

Nationally, violent crime rose 2.2 percent last year, the first increase since 2001.

The study ``will help us find and use the tools that work most effectively to fight crime and keep our communities safe,'' Gonzales said in a statement before speaking in Boston to the annual meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

He said the government is ``committed to making sure that every American city and town can share in the success of low violent crime rates.''

Mayors and police chiefs recently reported seeing spikes in violent crime for 2006, calling for greater support from federal law enforcement. Last month, Gonzales said cities will need to work harder to combat a spike in crime but shouldn't count on more federal funding, citing growing demands in the war on terrorism.

Officials said the new study will be rolled out in three phases: looking at crime increases in cities, analyzing those results for any trends, and identifying federal programs that can help. It was not clear whether more federal funding will be available for cities, but officials said that ``new initiatives'' could be created, if necessary.

The government will analyze at least five cities, and potentially dozens more, to get a broad enough picture of crime trends, officials said.

Last month, the FBI found there were 1.39 million violent crimes _ including rape, murder, robbery and aggravated assault _ reported in the United States in 2005, up from 1.36 million the previous year.

However, Justice officials said Monday that even with the recent surge, the overall national violent crime rate remains lower than any year ever measured except for 2004.