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Reduce Crime
Action to increase law enforcement officers, strengthen penalties,
control guns and support prevention programs


Major Statutes:
  • 1961 PL 87-274 Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Control Act
  • 1968 PL 90-351 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act
  • 1968 PL 90-618 Gun Control Act
  • 1970 PL 91-452 Organized Crime Control Act
  • 1970 PL 91-644 Omnibus Crime Control Act
  • 1984 PL 98-473 Omnibus Spending Bill Anti-crime package
  • 1993 PL 103-159 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
  • 1994 PL 103-322 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act Amendments

Summary of Government Efforts:

Although state and local governments remain responsible for the majority of day-to-day law enforcement, the federal government’s role in preventing crime and punishing criminals has expanded over the past 50 years. Efforts toward reducing the overall level of criminal activity have included community action networks, larger police forces, tougher sentencing, limits on gun ownership, and new definitions of what constitutes criminal activity.

In 1961, Congress passed the Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Control Act, a bill authorizing $10 million annually for three years to fund community crime control efforts and train officials to work with juvenile delinquents and gangs.

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 included over $100 million in funding for community crime control efforts in the form of block grants to states. Within that total, Congress earmarked $50 million to assist law enforcement agencies, including $15 million for riot control and $10 million to fight organized crime. The bill outlawed interstate trade in handguns, raised the minimum age for handgun purchases to 21, and established a national gun licensing system. The Gun Control Act, passed that same year, extended these restrictions to cover rifles, shotguns, and ammunition.

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave the government several new ways to combat organized crime. The bill authorized special grand juries to sit for up to 36 months when investigating organized criminal activity, witness immunity laws were weakened, courts gained the ability to detain uncooperative witnesses for up to 18 months, and witnesses could be tried for perjury based solely on contradictions in their testimony. The Attorney General was directed to form a witness protection program. Finally, the bill made it a federal crime to obstruct state law to protect an illegal gambling business or to use income from organized criminal activity to run a business engaged in interstate commerce.

Congress also passed the Omnibus Crime Control Act in 1970. This bill declared carrying a gun while committing another crime a federal felony, strengthened protection of members of Congress and the president, and appropriated funds for general crime prevention programs – both in state block grants and in direct aid to local authorities.

In 1984, Congress passed a major anti-crime package as part of a larger spending bill. The new provisions called for uniform sentencing of federal criminals, limited the number of cases in which insanity could be used as a valid defense, outlawed computer fraud, permitted the federal government to prosecute certain criminals having been convicted multiple times at the state level, and updated the government’s terrorism policy.

In 1993, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, a law requiring all handgun buyers to wait five days to pick up their weapons. The change gave authorities time to conduct background checks.

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1994 marked a substantial increase in the federal government’s role in fighting crime. The bill created a permanent national trust fund for crime prevention and authorized $30.2 billion over six years in block grants to states for police recruitment, prison construction, and prevention programs. Further provisions banned 19 types of assault weapons, allowed judges to waive minimum sentences for non-violent first-time drug offenders, and expanded the number of federal capital crimes. Congress also approved additional penalties for "hate crimes" (federal crimes committed against victims selected for their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation) and instituted the "three strikes and you’re out" policy which mandated life imprisonment for criminals convicted of three violent felonies.

References:

  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. 17, pp. 204-205
  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. 24, pp. 225-230
  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. 24, pp. 549-551
  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. 26, pp. 545-548
  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. 26, pp. 557-558
  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. 40, pp. 215-222
  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. 49, p. 300
  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. 50, pp. 273-274
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