The federal response to the problem of crime in America: 1968 to 1972
Walmsley, Andrew Stephen
Matusow, Allen J.
Master of Arts
In the mid-196s, a crime wave of epic proportions was perceived to be sweeping across the United States. The increase in crime, if such an increase took place, was probably due to the greater proportion of young (18 to 24 year olds) people in American society. The statistical evidence, upon which the perception of rising crime rested however, was extremely unreliable. Despite calling the problem primarily a local concern, the federal government undertook to address directly the issue of rising crime. Advised by liberal, sociologically oriented criminologists, the Johnson administration began a program of federal spending aimed at creating more legitimate opportunities through which would-be delinquents could express themselves in a less anti-social manner. During the passage of the legislation, conservative Congressmen, influenced by the public violence and hysteria of 1967 and 1968, attached non-liberal, more overtly punitive, provisions to the measure. In operation, the act proved to be an expensive and wasteful failure. Crime increased steadily from 1968 to 1972 despite the program. Money was either hoarded by local bodies, or spent hastily on projects the efficacy-of which as far as reducing the incidence of crime was concerned was never proven.