Remember when people were afraid to visit New York City because it was such a dangerous place? Last year the homicide rate there fell to its lowest in 40 years—a total of 414 murders. So far this year it’s down another 33 percent. That astonishing decrease in homicides is consistent with the steady decline in most crime rates across the US.
It’s a phenomenon that has caught the attention of the media and is keeping academicians busy searching for a cause. Is it the economy? No, the US is just now working its way out of a severe recession—but crime rates keep falling. Are families doing a better job? Unlikely, with the stresses attached to stagnant wages and high unemployment. Government programs? They’ve been drastically cut as tax revenues have fallen.
So why does the US keep getting safer? The answer is obvious: Our criminal justice professionals are doing a superb job.
March is National Criminal Justice Month, established in 2009 by a unanimous vote in the US House of Representatives. The impetus came from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), which began exploring the idea in 2007. According to the ACJS website, “The purpose of National Criminal Justice Month is to promote societal awareness regarding the causes and consequences of crime, as well as strategies for preventing and responding to crime.”
And, we might silently add, to serve as a reminder of the importance of the law enforcement profession.
The ACJS website notes that the US criminal justice system directly touches the lives of millions and millions of Americans every year: In addition to crime victims, inmates, and parolees, there are the friends and families of the nearly three million Americans employed in the justice system.
But what about the people who benefit indirectly from the dispatchers, officers, technicians, administrators, and others who work in law enforcement? How many New Yorkers are going about their normal business today, instead of lying on a slab in a morgue, because the NYPD has made their city safer for them? How many American cities and towns are safer places to live because local agencies are maintaining their high performance in spite of repeated budget cuts?
National Criminal Justice Month is an opportunity to build this awareness and to encourage a stronger partnership with the citizens that our agencies serve. The ACJS encourages criminal justice organizations to sponsor activities such as poster contests and 5K runs to honor criminal justice. Resources including sample press releases, proclamations, and fliers are available free on the ACJS website.
What can YOU do to “spread recognition and consideration of criminal justice practices by recognizing and promoting March as National Criminal Justice Month”?
National Criminal Justice Month resources are available at www.acjs.org.
Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of seven books, including Police Talk (Pearson), co-written with the late Mary Mariani. Visit her website at www.YourPoliceWrite.com for free report writing resources. Go to www.Amazon.com for a free preview of her book The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers. Dr. Reynolds is the police report writing expert for Law Enforcement Today.