November 14, 2007
Our view: Our violent streets
Federal measure to bolster police, ban assault weapons can help battle deadly tide
Watch your back, because Brevard County's streets are getting more dangerous.
How bad is it?
The local crime rate spiked 9 percent during the first six months of 2007, as compared to the same period a year ago.
The increase is driven by an appalling rise in the most violent crimes, such as homicides.
Space Coast law enforcement agencies saw a 55 percent increase in murders, 23.5 percent increase in robberies and 12.5 percent increase in burglaries and assaults from January to June 2007.
Crime is also up across Florida and a national surge in violent crime is underway after a sharp decline in the first few years of this decade.
The main cause locally is bloody, gang-related activity from Orlando spilling over here, along with a surge in the population of young males in the prime crime-committing years.
To fight back, Space Coast police are manning street-crime units to target hot spots. The Brevard Sheriff's Office started a similar unit three years ago, and Operation Cease-fire, a multi-agency task force, is going after gun thugs.
Those efforts are critical to slowing the lethal tide, which puts police officers and the public in the crosshairs, but they're costly. And local and state budget cutbacks mean there are few new dollars for law enforcement.
However, a federal anti-crime bill proposed by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., could bring timely help and deserves strong, bipartisan support.
It would invest $18.6 billion over six years to hire more police, FBI agents and prosecutors, buy crime-tracking technology, reduce recidivism and fight drug abuse.
It would also renew a ban on assault weapons Congress let lapse in 2004.
The International Association of Police Chiefs backs the reauthorization, including past-president andcurrent Palm Bay Police Chief William Berger. organization.
"It's turning into an arms race out there," says Berger.
He echoes the words of Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who armed his officers with more firepower in September after one officer was slain and three others wounded by an assailant with an AK-47
. Funny how semi-auto AK-47's weren't banned in 94...
Timoney also supports a renewed ban on assault weapons. So does the National Association of Police Organizations, which lobbies in Washington for the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association, representing some 1,100 officers in Brevard.
State Attorney Norm Wolfinger says an assault weapons ban isn't a silver bullet, but state agencies crippled by budget cuts need all the help they can gather.
We agree, and it's why we're deeply troubled by Sheriff Jack Parker's opposition to the renewed ban, which he claims wouldn't be effective and could erode citizens' right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. kind of like how the last one wasn't effective
But 63 police officers nationwide have been fatally shot this year, up more than 37 percent from the same period last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C.
If an assault weapons ban saves the life of just one officer next year, it's worth it. If I had a dime for every time I've heard this straw-man...
Too many elected officials like Parker -- who faces reelection next year -- cower before the National Rifle Association
and refuse to support sensible laws for stricter gun control, even when it means a potential death sentence to cops on the street. oh yes. the Big Bad National Rifle Assocation (BBNRA) is intimidating Sheriffs nationwide... somehow...
Parker, of all people, should know it, and should side with his fellow officers and back the renewed assault weapons ban.