updated 9/5/2006 4:32:48 PM ET 2006-09-05T20:32:48

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that cities will need to work harder to combat a spike in crime but shouldn’t count on more federal funding, citing growing demands in the war on terrorism.

At a news briefing, Gonzales was responding to several mayors and police chiefs who expressed concern at a crime conference last week that the Bush administration was devoting too many dollars for wars abroad. They said that came at the expense of Americans at home who are victims of violent crime.

“I think everyone understands at the state and local level that we need to secure our country,” Gonzales said, reiterating the desire of federal law enforcement to work more closely with local police to fight crime. “I understand the tension, and they also have a responsibility.”

But he said that President Bush was also committed to reducing the federal deficit in time of war.

“We have to be realistic,” Gonzales said, adding that cities will get closer cooperation but probably not the money they seek. “Not everyone is going to be happy about the funding dollars, but we’re going to do our job.”

Big increase in crime
After years in which violent crime fell or was stable, the FBI in June reported a 2.5 percent rise last year in violent crimes, the largest percentage increase since 1991.

Some criminal justice experts have said the statistics reflect complacency in fighting crime, although the FBI has said it is not yet clear whether the numbers reflect a real increase or ordinary year-to-year variations.

At the briefing, Gonzales said it would be unfair to assign blame for rising crime until the exact reasons for it become known.

“Before we develop a response, we have to know the reasons why,” Gonzales said. “If the reasons why crime is up is due to something we’re not doing, of course I’ll take responsibility.”

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