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Journal Article

The Federal Role in Dealing with Violent Street Crime: Principles, Questions, and Cautions

Philip B. Heymann and Mark H. Moore
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 543, The Federal Role in Criminal Law (Jan., 1996), pp. 103-115
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1048452
Page Count: 13
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Federal Role in Dealing with Violent Street Crime: Principles, Questions, and Cautions
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Abstract

Long-established principles of federalism have limited federal action against violent crime. An important question is whether those principles ought now to be relaxed. We distinguish two roles for the federal government: direct operations and financial assistance. Regarding direct operations, the natural division of labor among federal, state, and local enforcement agencies should be maintained, and federal enforcement agencies should be diverted to the fight against street crime only on an emergency, backup basis and only while the emergency exists. Regarding financial assistance, traditional principles of federalism that favor local decisions over national decisions should apply unless some important federal interest-such as the protection of individual rights; the encouragement of innovation and learning; or the protection of one state against the actions of others-is engaged. If such an interest is engaged, that interest ought to be reflected in federal restrictions on how the money can be used. When we apply these principles to recent federal legislation, we conclude that the nation's interest in experimenting with the potential of community policing justifies a federal categorical grant program, while the effort to encourage states to stiffen their sentencing requirements does not.

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