Safety At Home is a Priority

Louis Freeh
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Posted: Dec 18, 2007 10:47 AM
Safety At Home is a Priority

Over the last few weeks crime has reemerged as a top issue in the 2008 Presidential race, and it should come as no surprise to those familiar with my career that I see this as both a good and necessary development.

Why do I say this? Because if the American public lacks the ability to feel safe and secure, to walk down the street without fear or trepidation, then debates on other issues are superfluous. And not only does national security take a top priority in this election season, but so does domestic security, and nowhere does domestic security matter more than in our neighborhoods and with protecting our families.

I’ve also watched with interest as the focus has landed on the tough-on-crime record of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani - a man I’ve known since I was a young Assistant U.S. Attorney working with him. I say this with interest because in Rudy Giuliani, we are discussing a man who is undeniably one of the most effective crime-fighters this nation has ever seen. And yet it seems some in the media, as they often do, have deployed their focus onto small distractions. So let me make clear what I, someone who has spent my life in the arenas of law, justice, and security, know about Rudy Giuliani and his historic record of tackling the crime issue.

For the sake of being able to fit this all into one piece I will gloss over Rudy's time as Associate Attorney General in the Reagan Justice Department and then as a U.S. Attorney in order to focus on his stellar record as Mayor - I do this not because they aren’t remarkable records worth talking about, but instead to highlight just how spectacular his record was leading our nation's largest city.

Some might remember what New York City was like before Rudy became Mayor, but for those that don’t, Time Magazine summed it up pretty clearly when it titled an early 90’s cover story “The Rotting of the Big Apple.” What did that mean? It meant more than 11,000 major crimes a week, more than 2,000 murders a year. Step back and think about those numbers for a second - when Rudy took office, on average, every single day in New York City saw eight people murdered.

That level of constant violence created an atmosphere of fear and of hopelessness. It turned New York into a city that once thrived on tourism but now attracted tourists who were instructed not to look New Yorkers in the eye. And so its citizens turned to a man who had spent his life fighting for justice and security, a man who they knew could change the culture and restore the city's greatness.

That’s precisely what Rudy did.

Using a groundbreaking "CompStat" program so successful it received Harvard University’s prestigious Innovations in Government Award, Rudy and his Police Department systematically took down the criminals who had stolen the streets of New York. Murders went down 66 percent, shootings by more than 70 percent. Robberies, burglaries, and violent crimes in general all dropped so dramatically that New York, once considered by many to be the crime capital of America, became - according to the same FBI I ran for more than eight years - the safest large city in America.

It’s hard to overstate the sheer effort and force of will it took to accomplish such a feat, both from the rank-and-file police officers and their leaders. Nor should we underestimate the effect Rudy had on crime nationwide, as the tactics Rudy and the NYPD used to such great effect were copied by Mayors and Police Departments across the nation, contributing heavily to the widespread reductions in crime our nation enjoyed in the 1990’s.

Most importantly, we should never forget or obscure what these results meant for the people of New York. Rudy’s New York City was once again a place defined by its best qualities, not overwhelmed by its worst. It was once again a city that epitomized the hope and opportunity that have for so long been the driving force behind America’s national successes.

Count me as one who believes that crime is an issue that deserves top billing in this presidential election, and that Rudy Giuliani’s record of transforming New York City gives him the credibility to talk about making our entire country safer for our families.