March 21, 2002

Preventing Crime and Fighting Terrorism are Both Important to Cities, Mayors Tell Senate

Washington, DC -- The nation's mayors are concerned that much-needed new resources for homeland defense will come at the expense of efforts to prevent more traditional street crime, according to North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays, who testified on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Download Mayor Hays' full testimony
"We must ensure that cities have the resources needed to fight both the domestic war on terrorism and the continuing war against crime," said North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays. "Reductions in critical law enforcement programs should not make mayors chose between protecting our citizens against terrorist attacks, and those criminals which may strike our cities every day."

Mayors and police chiefs across the country strongly oppose a proposal in the Administration's fiscal 2003 budget to cut funding by 80 percent for the COPS program, a federal-local partnership that promotes community policing and funds additional police officers and new technology. The budget also seeks to merge the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program, which helps local police departments pay for hiring, training, and overtime for officers, with another grant program. The combined new program would then face a $200 million reduction, on top of a 25 percent reduction last year. The proposed cuts come at a time when city budgets are already strained because of the recession and increased security spending.

Mayor Hays said that fighting crime is still a major challenge for U.S. cities, although violent crime hit a 20-year low nationwide last year. He added that many mayors believe that major factors in the crime reduction are additional officers on the streets, deployment of new technology, and a new focus on community policing - all of which are by-products of the federal law enforcement program targeted for sharp cuts.

A recent University of Nebraska study, the most comprehensive look ever at the impact of a police presence on crime rates, found that COPS is directly linked to the drop in crime since 1995, preventing tens of thousands of violent crimes and hundreds of thousands of property crimes.

A recent study released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors estimated that cities will spend an additional $2.6 billion on security from September 11, 2001 through the end of 2002. The President's budget proposes $3.5 billion in new anti-terrorism funding for first responders at the state and local levels. Mayors support that funding request but want the assistance to be directed to where they are most needed, America's cities. As Mayor Hayes said, "after all, a 9-1-1 call does not get a state trooper."

Lina Garcia, (202) 861-6719


©2004 U.S. Conference of Mayors