Hopefuls don't talk crime - much

Crime was the No. 1 issue during the Philadelphia mayoral race last year, but the topic has rarely come up along the presidential-campaign trail.

How will U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fight homicides and reduce street violence in cities like Philadelphia?

Based on the information they've provided so far, there's very little to choose between them. Both support more federal money for local beat cops, beefed-up community initiatives, more reentry services for ex-offenders and "common-sense" gun legislation.

But - just as they have devoted little time to discussing urban policy in general - neither has spent much time talking about violence.

"You think this would be an issue as they spend the next four weeks in Pennsylvania," said John Feinblatt, criminal-justice coordinator for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "How could this not be something that resonates in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and other cities in Pennsylvania?"

John Roman, a senior researcher for the Urban Institute, stressed that this isn't just a Philadelphia problem.

"In 2005, 2006, violent crime was up in most cities," Roman said. "The examples like New York, where they were continuing to have success, were exceptions."

On gun policy, Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said that Obama and Clinton hold similar positions.

He was optimistic about gun-control efforts if one of them makes it to the White House, but noted that they rarely discuss the topic on the campaign trail.

"I would like to see a little more pro-active efforts from the two of them," Helmke said. "Most politicians are risk-averse."

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition - a bipartisan group of big-city mayors pushing for tougher gun laws - gave the candidates a survey on gun violence in December.

Questions included whether the candidates supported putting mental-health data in the gun-background-check database, or if they support increasing penalties for dealing illegal guns.

Neither candidate has completed the survey.

"Three hundred mayors asked . . . about their views on illegal guns - none responded," said Feinblatt. "With 12,000 Americans killed a year by illegal guns, it's disappointing that the candidates won't talk about the issues."

Crime might come up at the Democratic debate in Philadelphia on April 16. The forum will be on the same day as the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

The Clinton campaign will be releasing a more comprehensive urban-violence agenda in the coming weeks, spokesman Mark Nevins said. Details on the candidates' current crime plans are at

right. *

Obama
* GUNS: Supports making permanent an assault-weapons ban, which expired several years ago. He would repeal the Tihart Amendment, which restricts federal authorities from sharing gun-trace information with local law enforcement.

* RE-ENTRY FROM PRISON: Proposes a pri-

son-to-work incentive program, modeled on the welfare-to-work effort. This program would promote job training and support for ex-offenders. The campaign did not detail how much they planned to spend on the effort.

* POLICE: Supports more funding for the

COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program, an initiative of President Bill Clinton that provided federal grants for hiring police officers. Funding for the program has been cut in recent years and the focus has shifted to homeland security. His campaign did not detail how much funding would go to local police departments for beat cops.

* NEIGHBORHOODS: Favors expansion of the Weed and Seed community program, which provides support for community enhancement and crime-prevention efforts. He also would reverse cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program, which funds housing and neighborhood-revitalization projects.

Clinton

* GUNS: Also supports repealing the Tihart

Amendment and restoring the assault weapons ban.

* RE-ENTRY: Promises to invest $200 million

in community based "Re-entry Partnership Grants," to fund services for ex-offenders like job training and education.

* POLICE: Also supports an expansion of the

COPS program, calling it a "very effective tool." She pledges - like her husband in the 1990s - to put 100,000 new officers on the streets.

* NEIGHBORHOODS: Also favors restoring

cuts to the Community Development Block Grants, which provide money for housing and neighborhood development. She also outlines plans for mentoring and job programs for at-risk youth. *