Crime Control

* Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) characterized Atty. Gen. Janet Reno as a “sweet lady” unsuited for the job, contending that she should concern herself with prosecuting criminals rather than issues such as day care and other social services for low-income children (Jan. 22). Gramm probably was more comfortable with ineffective attorneys general like John Mitchell and Edwin Meese who prattled on about “wars on crime.”

Roughly 50% of all crimes reported to police are committed by the most persistent 5% or 6% of offenders. A growing body of research indicates that the antisocial behavior of these people is most likely to result from the early life course factors Reno emphasizes.

Thank God, we finally have someone in this county’s top law enforcement slot who understands that day care, maternal and child health care and education are key crime control issues. Far better to focus resources on nurturing productive human beings during their critical early years than to deal with the depredations of hard-core criminals, who make us live in fear and constipate our courts and prisons all their lives.

Reno is right. It is time to quit declaring “war” on ourselves and attack the roots of crime. Any balanced set of crime control strategies must consider both early life course factors that spawn our worst criminals and law enforcement.


Shortsighted politicians like Gramm are an important part of this country’s crime problem.


Assistant Professor

Department of Criminology,


Law and Society

UC Irvine