Saturday, May 27, 2006

Accountability, anyone?

It would seem that the actual effectiveness of a federal law enforcement program is besides the point for US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

A program that targets violent gun crimes in nearly two dozen cities and has been touted by the attorney general has yet to demonstrate that it works, the Justice Department inspector general said Friday.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has made faulty comparisons and drawn on insufficient data to conclude that the program is succeeding in driving down violent crime in cities that have Violent Crime Impact Teams, inspector general Glenn A. Fine said in a report.

ATF strongly disputed Fine's conclusions, saying the program was in its pilot stage when auditors reviewed it. Several local police officials also came to the defense of a program that has brought additional money and investigators to their cities to take on trouble spots where homicides and other violent crimes have increased despite a 30-year low nationally in the crime rate. [Mark Sherman, Associated Press Writer]
No shocker here. It’s not like the local police officials are going to attack free federal money—ever. It gets even better though.

Announcing the newest team in Atlanta in March, Gonzales said gun crimes dropped almost immediately in the other 22 cities. "We know this program works ... Almost across the board, gun crimes have been reduced in those areas where VCIT has built upon the successes of the President's Project Safe Neighborhoods program," he said.

Yet Fine said his auditors have seen erratic use of statistics and he questioned why the agency looked only at homicides instead of all violent crimes committed with guns. For eight of the original 15 cities, ATF reported city-wide data on homicides, rather than just the parts of the city where the anti-crime teams were working.

A startling 50 percent decrease in homicides in Albuquerque, N.M., actually reflected a drop from four to two, a small change that makes "it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the VCIT initiative," Fine said.
Of course, all this information can only serve to show that the initiative needs even more tax dollars to achieve its mission.

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