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Crime Might Become Huge Issue in 2016 GOP Presidential Contest

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Rudy Giuliani picked the wrong year to run for president. The man who as mayor cleaned up the streets of New York in a professional but tough manner might be the role model for winning the GOP nomination in 2016.


After all, what are the real issues this year? Certainly not a potentially nuclear Iran. The deal with Iran is bad, but in Congress there are not enough votes to stop it.

Illegal immigration, as pointed out by Donald Trump, could be a hot button topic. But the GOP is torn over the issue and Trump is finding his message lost in a war with Senator and former failed GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

Instead, how about an issue that is really impacting voters across the nation?: Crime.

For whatever reason, many cities and localities are seeing an uptick in the number of violent and other serious crimes committed in their areas this year. For example, the number of murders in cities around America were on the decline in past years but are suddenly increasing.

There have been several theories about why crime, in particular, acts of violence, have been on the rise this year.

In the case of the substantial uptick in murder rates in many of the nation's larger cities, some experts suggest the increase is just a statistical aberration. Others suggest that weak funding of law enforcement, both at the federal and state levels, is to blame.

But in reality it is most likely that events of 2014 and early 2015 gave criminals and gangs a big boost. The unfortunate incidents that happened in Ferguson, Baltimore and several other cities created a clear impression that police are the enemy and that they must now handle suspects, particularly if they are minorities, with extra special care. And the bad guys know this.


Police now know that they can easily face charges and even catch the immediate ire of the White House if they are perceived in any way to have carried out their duties in an inappropriate way, particularly if the potential criminal is African-American.

This is a touchy subject because no one wants any police officer to exceed his or her power. But what appears to have happened has been a demoralization of the many good police officers in our nation, and a real hesitancy on their part to engage situations that might quickly escalate and lead to a use of force against a suspect at the time of arrest.

I'm sure it is not lost on most police officers and sheriffs' deputies that the deaths of four Marines and a sailor elicited a rather muted response from the White House, which was finally shamed into lowering the U.S. flag almost a week after these murders. But the deaths of other people who have either fled a crime or have been arrested seems to warrant special presidential statements and official visits from high-level White House staff.

Take the case of Michael Brown, who was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. Despite riots by protesters and denunciations by top leaders, the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Other cases, such as the one that led to riots in Baltimore this spring, resulted in charges against the policemen. A trial will decide if they are guilty.


Still, the obvious but unspoken belief on the streets is that this administration will come down swiftly on law enforcement officers who are suspected of abusing their authority. The president might use the bully pulpit of the White House in a New York minute; and, at the same time, he will dance around matters related to Islamic extremist acts of violence, and even the burgeoning gang activity that now dominates many of America's cities.

Nothing will change the way this president and his administration choose to approach various acts of violence. Things won't change in the remaining year-and-a-half of Obama's term.

But the Republicans who seek to succeed President Obama have a golden opportunity to take hold of an issue that is becoming increasingly significant. The GOP candidate who articulately states a Giuliani-like set of policies toward reducing crime and gang-related violence in this country could provide Republican voters an issue that really hits home. One that could deliver a nomination.

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