Delisandra Beltran, of New York City, used to feel scared in her own home. Her neighborhood was so dangerous,
she says, "that I was throwing myself on the floor with my son all the time because of the bullets flying through my
window." Mae Willie Turner, 79, of Taylor, Texas, was also scared. Drug dealers had brought so much crime to her small
hometown that she was afraid to sit on her own front porch.
But now all that has changed. Beltran says, "I haven't seen a bullet hole in a year." Turner boasts, "I can sit on my
porch anytime." These women are not the only Americans feeling a little safer these days. In many cities, the rate of
crime is going down. In 1994, violent crime dropped 8% in the nine largest U.S. cities. During the first half of 1995,
serious crime dropped an additional 2%. Murder was down 12%.
Why is crime down? One reason may be the smart new way some police departments work. In cities such as New
Orleans, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago, police don't just cruise around in patrol cars watching for crimes. Officers
are on the streets, talking with the folks they protect. The new system is called community policing. Officers know the
good citizens and the troublemakers, which makes it easier to solve crimes. "I felt better almost as soon as the police
moved in," says Brenda Holmes of New Orleans. "They've given us our lives back."
Police officers are taking on new roles. "We do neighborhood cleanups, counseling...you name it," says Djuana
Adams, a police officer in New Orleans. "We help the children with their homework, and they show up for treats when
they get good grades." Community policing is not the only reason experts give for the drop in crime. More criminals than
ever are in prison, where they can't get into trouble. Also, fewer people use crack, the drug blamed for the rise in violent
crime that started in 1984.
Some experts think the crime rate will bounce back up in a few years. There will be more males ages 15 to 29, the
group that commits most crimes. Plus, crime among kids has gone up, not down. But if crime does rise again, police
departments across the country are better prepared than ever to fight it.