Obama and Romney: Where Do They Stand on Crime?

Next week, on November 6th 2012, we will see incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama running for a second term against his major challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Republican Mitt Romney, in the 57th US Presidential Election. While recovery from Sandy is underway, and attention has turned to the destruction it has left in its path, the presidential campaign and issues of domestic and foreign policy still remain high priority as the election looms.

Crime has not played a salient role in any presidential campaign since the 1990’s, mainly because the crime rate steadily and dramatically declined during this time and continued to do so into the 2000’s. Democrats have also learned their lesson from past campaigns, joining Republicans in always appearing ‘tough on crime’. As a consequence, crime as a political issue has been all but eliminated reflected in the fact that there has been little in terms of crime prevention discussed at the Presidential Debates these last couple of months. However, at present when violent crime is now rampant in the US, having increased by 17% in the last year, and property crime incidents are at an all-time high (up by 11% from 2011) we at Netwatch are really wondering what the impact of this election will be in terms of both personal safety and home and business security for the future.

Since President Obama took his seat following the last presidential election he has appeared to demonstrate a tough but fair stance on issues of crime. The Obama White House has taken the first steps in decades to move away from a strict “lock-‘em-up” mentality on crime and launched a top-to-bottom review of sentencing in an attempt to move from strict incarceration toward rehabilitation and out-of-prison punishments. In contrast to Joe Biden and other Democratic Party members, Obama is avidly opposed to the death sentence, except in the case of heinous crimes including terrorism or the harm of children. During his term, Obama co-sponsored legislation ending racial profiling and actively campaigned to the civil rights division to enforce laws fairly and justly. At a time when the US is facing an incarceration and reincarnation crisis, Obama has introduced job training for ex-offenders, to break down existing barriers for ex-offenders to find employment and to help them avoid a return to a life of crime and re-integrate into society.

Obama could not be considered soft on crime however; since the beginning of his political career, as Illinois senator, he has introduced over 150 pieces of legislation designed to toughen penalties to combat violent crime, gangs and drug activities. President Obama has stated that he supports the second amendment but his record indicates that he is a strong supporter of reigning in firearms to prevent violence.  He has also adamantly voted yes to increase funding for programmes such as the COPS (Community Orientated Police Service) Program which provide state and local law enforcement facilities with critical resources and which provide grants for public safety.

In comparison Romney’s criminal-justice record, while thinner, is much clearer and he decidedly displays a tougher stance on crime. Romney is an avid supporter of capital punishment, having tried to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts, during his 2002 run for governor.  Romney has publically supported mandatory sentencing and sentencing under the three strikes law, which imposes 25 years to life sentences on persons convicted of three or more serious criminal offenses. He was the first governor in modern Massachusetts to deny every request for pardon or a reduction of legal penalties during his term.

During his time as governor Romney has contributed substantially to increasing the size of the Massachusetts state police-force and its crime lab.  He recognizes the need for government to provide the public safety and infrastructure in urban areas if they are to attract businesses acknowledging that crime is one of the main reasons why businesses choose not to set up and operate in certain areas of Massachusetts and beyond. He, like Obama, has also advocated the need for improvement in the education system and the implementation of programmes to clean up the streets, as fundamental changes necessary to deter crime in the wider community.

In a poll taken by the Economist, 34% of people felt Obama would do a better job regarding issues of crime as compared to Mitt Romney (30%). Do our communities need a tough ‘one strike your out’ stance on crime in order to stamp out violent attacks, vicious burglaries or home invasions, as well as to deter less serious crimes such as petty theft and vandalism? Or would a sensible policy of rehabilitation and reengagement of criminals in society serve to better combat such terrible crimes in the long term? Whoever does win on November 6th however, is undoubtedly going to face a monumental challenge when they begin their term as President to combat these serious issues of personal and community safety, and domestic security, which have been somewhat ignored in the run up to this election.

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