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The Sacrifice at Home

The Sacrifice at Home

One of the many criticisms leveled at the Bush administration's train wreck of a war in Iraq is that the four-year campaign has required little sacrifice from the average American.

Of course, U.S. soldiers and their families bear a huge burden - more than 3,500 U.S. men and women have paid with their lives. But for the rest of us, the war often chugs along under the radar. No draft to relieve bone-tired troops. No new taxes to cover the war's $1 trillion-plus price tag. No problem.

But wait; perhaps that's not quite true.

In this month's cover story, Justice Editor Jim McKay looks at the impact of the Iraq War - and the broader "War on Terror" - on federal funding for state and local law enforcement.

Spiraling war costs and an obsession with homeland security since 9/11 put a significant dent in the two biggest pots of federal money for local police: Community Oriented Policing Services grants and State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance grants. Together, these two funding sources decreased from $4.4 billion in 2001 to $2.5 billion in 2006.

These grants put tens of thousands of new police officers on the streets. Federal grant funding is also instrumental in deploying technology, such as laptop computers in police cruisers, that makes officers more effective.

The run-up in federal funding for community policing, which began in the mid-1990s, coincided with a dramatic drop in violent crime throughout the United States. Now reduced funding appears to be a factor in undoing the gains achieved by local police agencies. Murder rates are rising in numerous cities, according to the FBI, as are the numbers of robberies and aggravated assaults.

As McKay's story points out, reduced federal funding for law enforcement probably isn't the only cause of growing crime rates. Demographic and economic factors also play significant roles. But it stands to reason that fewer cops and less crime-fighting technology are part of the problem.

Although law enforcement officials hold some hope for funding improvement in fiscal 2008, Bush seems hell-bent on pressing the war in Iraq until the end of his term, leaving the mess for the next president to sort out. Meanwhile, the operation continues to ring up a tab of $300 million per day, according to The New York Times.

It's ironic that the Iraq War - and, indeed, the War on Terror itself - may be asking Americans to sacrifice the very thing it was supposed to be protect: their safety.

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