Violent Crime Blazing Back in America

Report to cite first back-to-back annual increases in generation.

ByJohn Cochran

June 2, 2007 — -- For the second year in a row, violent crime has increased, Justice Department officials tell ABC News.

A report to be released Monday cites a 1.3 increase in 2006. But robberies were up 6 percent, and murders in large cities also were up 6 percent.

James Fox, a professor at Northeastern University, said part of the problem is that "gangs have made a comeback, and they are particularly well organized."

Knowing that the FBI will report higher crime figures on Monday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced Friday he will propose tougher laws and will expand federal anti-violence task forces in 25 cities to four more -- Orlando, Fla.; Mesa, Ariz.; San Bernadino, Calif.; and San Juan, P.R.

"Each of these cities has seen an unacceptable increase in homicides or other violent crimes," Gonzales said.

But critics say sending more federal teams may not be the answer. The Justice Department's inspector general has found that they waste time and money by failing to coordinate efforts:

Until 2005, violent crime had steadily dropped over 15 years. The new rise in violence is gradual, not a tidal wave. But it is still sobering for law enforcement agencies that now realize they have been overconfident.

In Washington, D.C., police officials had bragged that violent crime in the nation's capital had gone down. Now they admit they were wrong. Last year, it was up 9 percent.

"For years it has been very frustrating for those citizens and to the police when you hear all the press and media relations saying things are better, things are safer, and yet you have citizens still afraid to go to the grocery store," Officer Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the Fraternal Order of the D.C. Police Labor Committee, told ABC News.

The new crime figures come as "no surprise to police on the beat or to citizens in dangerous neighborhoods," Baumann said.

Baumann and others argue for more coordination between local and federal authorities and for more resources.

Fox said, "We need more cops, more prevention programs for kids. Unless we do that, the crime levels could rebound, and we could look at 2006 and say those were the good old days."

Federal law enforcement officials say their resources to fight crime are limited because of the 9/11 attacks. Since then, they say, there has been about a 50-50 split in spending on crime and anti-terror measures.

In addition, Attorney General Gonzales said there is only so much the federal government can do in fighting crime.

"We know that community-specific problems cannot successfully be tackled nationally," he said, "because crime issues vary from city to city, and even between neighborhoods in a single city."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events