In 1992 John Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted, and others with whom I had worked to establish the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children helped create Safe Streets. While there were a number of groups designed to assist victims of crime, there was no group dedicating to stopping crime before it happened.
In1993, we decided to concentrate on the passage of Truth-in-Sentencing laws because we believed keeping convicted violent criminals behind bars for their full sentences was the best way to reduce violent crime. In the Summer of 1993 Michael Jordan's father was murdered by two criminals who clearly should have been in jail. In response Newsweek Magazine published a "My Turn" Column in which I wrote that the crime situation was not hopeless. America needed to do two things:
First, we needed to use crime analysis techniques to concentrate on getting high rate offenders off of the streets: "When I was at the Justice Department in the early '80s, we funded projects in 20 cities where police, prosecutors, schools, and welfare and probation workers pooled information to focus on these "serious habitual offenders." As part of this program, Oxnard, Calif., worked to get the city's 30 active, serious habitual offenders behind bars. By 1989, when all 30 active, serious habitual offenders were behind bars, murders declined by 60 percent, robberies by 41 percent and burglaries by 29 percent."
Second, we needed to pass state laws that required violent offenders to serve at least 85% of their sentences: I wrote that "The one change that would have the greatest impact is the passage by states of truth-in-sentencing laws, which require convicted violent criminals to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences."
After that Newsweek column appeared every major network picked up the story and Safe Streets was credited with being a leader of the movement which passed Truth-in-Sentencing legislation at the federal level in 1994 and in 37 states in the mid-90s. We helped draft and pass the Truth-in-Sentencing provisions of the 1994 Crime Bill; authored influential Heritage Foundation Backgrounders on criminal justice policy; and collected 1.5 million signatures supporting passage of Truth-in-Sentencing laws in the states."
A 2010 Time Magazine article reported that by "1991, the murder rate in the U.S. reached a near record 9.8 per 100,000 people. Had the rate remained unchanged, an additional 170,000 Americans would have been murdered in the years since 1992. He went on to report that because of policy changes made in the '90s that by 2008, lower crime rates meant that in a single year 40,000 fewer rapes, 380,000 fewer robberies, half a million fewer aggravated assaults and 1.6 million fewer burglaries than we would have seen if rates had remained at peak levels."
It would be tragic if the anti-incarceration movement gaining momentum today, were to have its way, these policies that dramatically reduced the incidence of violent crime over the last two decades would be reversed. That is why we have created the Safe Streets Pledge to put politicians on notice that while the public supports improvements to our criminal justice systems, they should not be done at the expense of public safety.
Of equal concern to Safe Streets is the movement to legalize the "recreational" use of marijuana. Again, politicians seem intent on experimenting with the safety and health of our young people. A new study in The Lancet Psychiatry found that the risks for negative outcomes for teens increase with the frequency of cannabis use. "Teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are over 60% less likely to complete high school than those who never use. They're also 60% less likely to graduate college and 7 times more likely to attempt suicide."
Safe Streets invites everyone in America to join us in our Commitment to Drug Free Youth and to sign the Safe Streets Petition to the President and Attorney General to Enforce Federal Drug Laws. We do believe that every child in America has the right to grow up drug free.