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Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Case Study Example

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Case Study

Abstract

In 1994, under the Clinton Administration, the United States Congress passed what has become known as the largest crime bill in the nation’s history. In light of high-profile violent crimes in 1993, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was designed with the intent to expand federal law. Among the statutes set forth in the Act is the federal assault weapons ban, the deferral death penalty act, the elimination of inmate education, the violence against women act, and the community policing provision. Since its inception, the Act has had a significant impact on the decrease of violent crimes, crimes against women, and crimes against children. Prior to the implementation of the Act, violent crimes rates was at an all-time high and police officers did not have enough resources and manpower to effectively combat crime. the Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.

Introduction

In 1994, under the Clinton Administration, the United States Congress passed what has become known as the largest crime bill in the nation’s history. In light of high-profile violent crimes in 1993, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was designed with the intent to expand federal law (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999). Among the most noted segments of H.R. 3355 are expanded federal death penalty, the federal assault weapons ban, and various other crimes described in statutes that relate to hate crimes, gang-related crimes, immigration law, and sex crimes. This case study will examine the creation, development, and implementation of the Act into the American justice system.

Problem Identification

A series of violent crimes in 1993 led to the design and implementation of H.R. 3355 by the Clinton Administration. On July 1, 1993, Gian Luigi Ferri, 55, opened fire in a San Francisco office building killing eight people, and injuring six before committing suicide. The reason for the massacre remains unknown, despite an illegible letter left behind by the killer (Chiang, 2003). On February 28 of that same year the Waco siege took place. This event, initiated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, was an attempt to disassemble a Protestant sect that has been in existence since 1955. Group members of the sect were accused of sexual misconduct and stockpiling weapons (Clinton, 2009). The siege occurred at Mount Carmel, Texas, lasted for 50 days and resulted in the deaths of four FBI agents and 76 sect members. In addition to these two events, several other high-profile violent crimes took place.

For instance, in 1992 more violent crimes were reported than any other time in U.S. history. In fact, during that year, an estimated two million robberies, rapes, murders, and aggravated assaults occurred in the U.S. (The White House, 2000). In addition, more than 500,000 gun crimes were reported during that year alone and more than 850,000 teenagers were victims of violent crimes. An additional 5,379 children were victims of gun-related deaths; almost 15 children each day. Law enforcement officials found it increasingly difficult to contain the rising crime rates and pleaded with the federal government to intervene. This prompted the Clinton Administration to implement a bill that would make it more difficult for violent offenders to conduct their crimes.

H.R. 3355 was written by Sen. Joe Biden and sponsored by U.S. House Representative Jack Brooks. Some notable facets of the bill was the allocation of $9.7 billion for funding prisons, the provision of 100,000 new police officers, and the allocation of  $6.1 billion to fund prevention programs (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999).

Policy Specifics

The Act supported the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, which banned the manufacturing of various assault weapons (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999). Various types of semi-automatic firearms, pistols, semi-automatic rifles, and shotguns that can accept detachable magazines fell under the category of assault weapons. Additionally, the Act also barred the ownership of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Although this section of the Act was formally put into action on September 13, 1994, it has since expired, once again making it legal to own a military-style semi-automatic weapon. Under a sunset provision, the National Rifle Association argued that this clause violated the Second Amendment, thereby making it unconstitutional (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999). It is important to note, however, that prior to the implementation of this segment of the Act, more than 500,000 U.S. citizens were victims of gun crimes. In addition, the number of juveniles who committed gun-related crimes increased by nearly 65 percent between the 1980s and 1993. After the implementation of the 1994 Crime Bill, gun crimes declined by 40 percent (The White House, 2000). In addition, juvenile gun-related crimes declined by nearly 50 percent.

Title VI of the Act introduced the Federal Death Penalty Act. This clause introduced 60 new death penalty offenses for crimes that relate to the murder of a law enforcement officer, drug trafficking, terrorism-related crimes, drive-by shootings that result in a person’s death, civil-rights-related murders, carjackings that result in a person’s death, and the use of weapons of mass destruction that result in death (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999). Mastermind behind the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, Timothy McVeigh, was executed under this title for the death of eight law enforcement officials.

H.R. 3355 also mandated the elimination of education for prisoners. In fact, the Act overturned the segment of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which granted inmates free education during their incarceration. This means that prisoners will not have the advantage of furthering their education for free, thereby ensuring that their education level remains unchanged for the course of their incarceration (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999).

Title IV of the Act also allotted $6.1 billion for the prevention and investigation of violence against women. This section of the Act has since been renewed twice and includes the Safe Homes for Women Act and the Safe Streets for Women Act. The former allowed for an increase in federal grants designed to subsidize shelters for battered women, and that were used to create a National Domestic Violence Hotline. It also mandated that a restraining order against any individual accused of domestic violence must be enforced by all states. The Safe Streets for Women Act mandates restitution for any legal and medical costs associates with sex crimes, and also increased federal punishments for repeat sex offenders (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999).

100,000 Cops Initiative

The central focus of the Act was the fact that the federal government authorized states to hire 100,000 more police officers. Crime in the U.S. had been on a steady incline since the 1980s. In an effort to address the rising crime rates in an effective manner, law enforcement officials turned to the federal government for technical and financial assistance. The assistance would aid in the development of new crime control strategies, such as hot spots policing, community policing, and crime mapping (Willis, 2008). Furthermore, it would allow for improved management tools that would greatly enhance electronic crime mapping, ballistics identification, and forensic DNA. In essence, increased federal aid would improve police practices to reduce urban and community crime. The creation of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) supported the employment of an additional 100,000 police officers in local communities.

Community policing is a concept based on the idea that communities will be safer if they become better acquainted with the police officers who work in those communities. In other words, a safer community is possible when the police officers know the business owners and operators, as well as the residents of the community. By establishing more familiarity with these people, officers will become better informed about the ‘bad guys’ in the community, i.e. the drug sellers and users, firearm sellers and users, car thieves and gang members (Weisburd & Braga, 2006). Through community policing, officers are able to utilize these relationships with community members to be aware of community crime issues. Through a proactive approach, community police officers create a sense of safety among community members. In addition, community police officers initiate and aid in the implementation of neighborhood block watches, and other initiatives that could keep businesses and schools safe. An increased police presence and well-developed collaborations with community members result in decreased community crimes (The White House, 2000).

Prior to the implementation of this clause, major cities like New York, Boston, and Houston reduced crime rates through the implementation of community policing strategies. However, many communities did not have sufficient resources to redeploy or hire enough police officers to combat crime (The White House, 2000). Since the introduction of the new law, the federal government allocated funds to communities to invest in local law enforcement. The COPS initiative allocated enough funds to an estimated 11,000 law enforcement agencies to redeploy and hire 100,000 officers. Another incentive of this initiative is a 300 percent increase in local and state law enforcement budgets. Since its implementation, national crime rates have shown a steady decline. In fact, during the Clinton-Gore Administration, crime rates dropped to the lowest it had been in 26 years (The White House, 2000). Another major result of the COPS initiative is a significant increase in drug seizures. In fact, by 1999, law enforcement officials seized triple the amount of marijuana than in 1992. Also, although cocaine production increased in Peru, Columbia, and Bolivia between 1992 and 1998, cocaine supply within the U.S. decreased by nearly 30 percent during that same period. Lastly, drug related murders decreased by 50 percent since the implementation of the COPS initiative.

The primary goal of the COPS initiative was to implement SMART policing strategies on local and state levels. SMART (strategically managed, analysis and research-driven, technology-based) policing enables law enforcement officials to better utilize police resources (Weisburd & Braga, 2006). For instance, through this initiative police officers are able to deploy to areas where crimes are likely to happen; this strategy improves response times for crimes that are already in progress.  The strategic management component of the SMART initiative refers to the implementation and utilization of policing tools that are designed to identify and assess terrorist activities. In other words, these tools are used to forge community partnerships in an effort to improve police performance so that terrorism-related crimes will decrease (Willis, 2008). The analysis and research component of the SMART initiative refers to the evaluation and analysis of historical data that pertains to the development of strategic priorities. This component is also helpful when conducting continued data analysis to identify areas of improvement. As a result law enforcement officials make better informed decisions about police deployment and resource allocation. The technology component of the SMART initiative refers to the utilization of improved technology to effectively conduct information sharing, surveillance, data capture, and display and analysis. For instance, improved technology allows police officers to utilize internet communication programs to improve community relations, as well as improve their situational awareness. In addition, improved technology, such as electronic surveillance tools, uses software that can identify facial features and behavioral variances of suspects (Willis, 2008).

Another aspect of the COPS initiative was the employment of additional prosecutors that can develop additional prosecution strategies to complement the improved policing strategies executed by the police officers. At the time of the Act’s implementation, many community prosecution strategies were already operational; however, they were ineffective in combatting the ongoing crime. The Clinton Administration argued that more prosecutors would be able to work more effectively with community groups to strategically address community crime problems. This collaboration, in turn, would support the zero tolerance policies enforced by law officials so that crimes that would not normally be prosecuted could be prosecuted. The plan allocated funds to employ up to 1,000 new prosecutors over a five-year period. As such, communities had increased power to administer community prosecution in an ongoing effort to prevent and control crime (The White House, 2000).

Conclusion

Since the implementation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, national crimes rates have seen a significant decline. In fact, violent crimes have decreased by nearly 20 percent over a six-year period. However, despite admirable efforts to curb crime, many local communities still struggle to contain gang activities and illegal gun and drug trafficking. Community policing is an effective strategy to combat the latter. Through increased police presence in neighborhoods, and improved community relations between police officers and community members, community crimes will decrease. The Act was designed to create a safer nation, and most statistics indicate that it has been successful in its purpose. It remains crucial, however, that strategies set forth in Act remain operational, and that federal funding continues to support such practices. Without federal support, crime rates will increase once again.

References

Chiang, H. (2003, July 1). 10 Years After: 101 California Massacre Vctims Helped Toughen Gun Laws. The San Francisco Chronicle.

Clinton, B. (2009). My Life. New York: Random House.

The White House. (2000). The Clinton Presidency: Lowest Crime Rates in a Generation. Retrieved from The Clinton-Gore Administration: A Record of Progress: http://clinton5.nara.gov/WH/Accomplishments/eightyears-06.html

U.S. Department of Justice. (1999, March). The Clinton Administration’s Law Enforcement Strategy. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Justice: http://www.justice.gov/archive/dag/pubdoc/crimestrategy.htm

Weisburd, D., & Braga, A. (2006). Police Innovation: Contrasting Perspectives. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

Willis, J. J. (2008). Brief History of Police Management. George Mason University, Administration of Justice Department.

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