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Statement Submitted to Republican National Convention Committee on Resolutions: "The Crusade Against Crime"

July 31, 1968

During the decade of the 1960's, the peace forces of our society surrendered critical ground to the criminal forces. The first right of every American, the right to be free from domestic violence, has become the forgotten civil right of the American people.

As a result, serious crime has been increasing at a rate 7 times as rapidly as the population. In recent years that rate has begun to accelerate. Since Dwight Eisenhower left the Presidency, the annual number of felonies committed in the United States has doubled. At the current rate of increase in crime, the number of rapes and robberies and assaults will double again by the end of 1972.

It is not a Great Society when millions of women refuse to walk in their neighborhood or visit their parks after dusk—out of fear. It is not a Great Society when millions of men buy locks for their doors and watch-dogs for their homes and rifles and pistols for themselves—out of fear.

The American people are bolting their doors and arming themselves because they are rapidly losing confidence in the capacity and determination of government to defend them and their families and their property from crime and criminals. If government does not wish America to become an armed camp of two hundred million people, with vigilante justice as one of its hallmarks, then Government must begin now to reassume the responsibility for domestic peace and security. It is too late for more commissions to study violence; it is time for government to stop it.

We cannot accept a wave of crime as the wave of the future.

The people of this country want an end to government that acts out of spirit of neutrality or beneficence of indulgence toward criminals. They want government that will set itself up as an irreconcilable enemy of crime, a government that will wield its full powers to guarantee that for the criminals that torment the innocent, society's retribution will be ample and swift and sure.

The ideal in a free society is that the chief deterrent to crime lies in the respect for law, in the respect for legitimate authority, in the respect for the rights of others that is the standard moral code of every citizen.

But when the homes and schools and churches of a free society fail to inculcate those standards, or when the moral and opinion leaders of a nation fail in their role as commissioned watchmen of those standards, as they have failed in America in recent years, then the people must fall back for their safety upon police and prosecutors and courts.

This is the last line of defense of a free people. It is these defenses that government patrols; it is these defenses that have crumbled before the rising tide of crime; it is these defenses that government must re-establish and rebuild.

One paramount need is for the men of government at the national level to exert their moral authority to the limit, to marshal the armies of public opinion behind what can be nothing less than a militant crusade against crime. Another is for some recent notions in the administration of the law to be abandoned—and for some principles of justice to be re-established.

Poverty, despair, anger, past wrongs can no longer be allowed to excuse or justify violence or crime or lawlessness.

We must cease as well the granting of special immunities and moral sanctions to those who deliberately violate the public laws—even when those violations are done in the name of peace or civil rights or anti-poverty or academic freedom.

We must return to a single standard of justice for all Americans, and justice must be made blind again to race and color and creed and position along an economic or social line. Long ago in this country we buried the notion that the rich were above the law. Let us now lay to rest the equally deleterious doctrine that those who speak for popular or favored "causes" are entitled to favored considerations before the bar of justice.

We must re-establish again the principle that men are accountable for what they do, that criminals are responsible for their crimes—that while the boy's environment can help to explain the man's crime, it does not excuse that crime.

It does not justify our turning the adult criminal loose to prey again upon society. For too long we have been indulging the criminal poor—at the expense of the innocent poor.

But let us be clear about several points. A militant national crusade to protect society from criminals does not preclude a continuing national crusade to eliminate the social conditions from which so many of today's criminals have emerged and tomorrow's criminals are certain to emerge. The two go hand in hand.

Nor is our call for "law" meant to be any code word for the repression of the black American. In the report of the President's Commission on Civil Disorders, it was noted that crimes of violence occur in the slums of some cities 35 times as frequently as they occur in the areas of affluence. It is the poor, black and white alike, that bear the brunt of crime and violence.

We need a new recognition in this country—that a mugging in the ghetto is as serious a crime as a mugging on Main Street. There can be no color line between black murder and white murder, between black safety and white safety. We need not only equal enforcement of the law—but also equal protection of the law.

This country has been on a generation-long experiment of leniency toward all criminals; the result is a society that is increasingly unsafe for all the law-abiding. This experiment has gestated an increasingly bold and successful criminal community and an increasingly fearful and bullied majority of this country.

At every level of law enforcement and criminal justice there are needed men with an awareness of the severity of the crime crisis, men with a new attitude toward crime and criminals. Nowhere is this more necessary than in the judiciary, from the lowest court to the Supreme Court. At the judicial level it is time that the rights of the victimized millions in this country receive at least the same measure of concern and attention and action as have the rights of the criminally few.

From a new attitude about crime, from a new awareness of the severity of the crisis, from a new national priority for crime control, from new leadership of the American people, all else can follow—prison reform at the Federal and State level, judicial reform, better paid, better trained and more police for our undermanned peace forces across this country, increased funds for crime research at the national level.

It is difficult to underestimate the impact that a few men of action can have upon the crime crisis in America.

Today—organized crime earns hundreds of millions of dollars a year in the sale of illicit narcotics that both destroy the lives of thousands of children and feed the habit of addicts who commit half the street crime in some of our great cities. These incorporated corrupters of American life cheat union men out of their wages, cheat businessmen of their profits, corrupt government, milk the poor of billions of dollars each year in the numbers racket and additional tens of millions by charging extortionate rates of interest on loans.

Yet, as the profits of organized crime grow prodigiously into untold billions of dollars—the Attorney General of the United States expresses his public distaste for penetrating the secrecy of this organized conspiracy. He has publicly refused to use the strictly limited and carefully safeguarded wiretapping, authorized by Congress and approved by the courts, which is considered by many criminal justice officials as law enforcement's most effective tool against organized crime.

A new Attorney General, with a new attitude and a new awareness and a new determination, could make a world of difference in the quality of American life by making decisive inroads on the security of organized crime.

Only fifty years ago, Americans dreamed of making the world safe for democracy; today, our present leadership cannot even make America safe for Americans.

That is the sad state to which we have fallen. And that will be the duty of this party—at every level of government—to re-establish domestic peace— to restore freedom from fear to the American people.

APP NOTE: From section four of the volume "Nixon Speaks Out" titled, "Crusade Against Crime".

Richard Nixon, Statement Submitted to Republican National Convention Committee on Resolutions: "The Crusade Against Crime" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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