Funds for community policing programs have been significantly slashed in recent years, a development that experts link to the government's new focus on fighting terrorism. The U.S. Department of Justice provided $7 billion in federal funds for community policing programs between 1994 and 2001, but it has awarded only $208 million for local departments this year. "Many of those funds have been shifted to homeland security, which also is very important in this day and age," said University of Nevada criminologist William Sousa. "I think, though, in shifting those funds, people fail to realize that . . . [a] lot of terrorism goes on that's homegrown," he said, pointing to drug crime.
Many cities have had significant drops in the amount of federal funds they receive for programs such as putting more police officers on the streets and purchasing equipment designed to improve law enforcement's efficiency, and have had rises in crime. In Philadelphia, funding cuts have reduced the city's police force from 7,000 in the 1990s to 6,500 today. That city had 406 homicides in 2006, a 10-year high, and could exceed that number in 2007. In Camden, New Jersey, the number of uniformed officers has also dropped and only 20 of the department's 170 police cruisers are equipped with computers. Camden has had 31 homicides this year and is likely to surpass the 33 murders recorded in 2006. Camden's police executive, Arturo Venegas, observed, "Our capacity for responding and deploying intelligently as to what's occurring in the community -- that is diminished. It's easier to finance infrastructure in Baghdad than it is to finance infrastructure in Philadelphia or Camden, New Jersey." Venegas added that federal funds once allocated to train community leaders how to collaborate with local police were "the best tool for ensuring homeland security."
Though violent crime in most cities is yet to reach the levels of the early 1990s and continues to fall in some places, law enforcement officials warn that rising crime rates in some cities are a growing threat that must be addressed.