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The history of the federal involvement in violent crime frequently is told as one of entrepreneurial or opportunistic action by presidential administrations and Congress. The problem with this story, however, is that it treats state and local governments as objects of federal initiatives, not as independent agents. Appreciating that state and local governments courted and benefited from the federal interest is important for understanding the past two decades, but also for understanding the institutional strains created by the absolute priority the feds have given to counterterrorism since September 11, 2001. Intergovernmental relations are at a crossroads. For two decades, the net costs of the federal interaction with state and local governments on crime have been absorbed nationally, with the benefits felt locally. The federal commitment to terrorism prevention and the roles federal authorities envision for state and local agencies portend a very different dynamic, with reduced federal funding for policing and an inherent tension between domestic intelligence collection and street crime enforcement, particularly in urban areas with a high proportion of immigrants.


Criminal Law | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections


© 2006 The University of Chicago. Originally published in Crime & Justice, Vol. 34, p. 377, 2006.