Albright Heads Back to Mideast

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright will travel to the Middle East next week in an effort to help nudge the peace process forward, the State Department said yesterday.

During the trip, from Sunday until Thursday, Albright is expected to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and also to visit Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said the United States hoped that a dispute over Israel's transfer of a further 5 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian control, which has been held up for more than two weeks, would be settled before Albright arrived in Israel.

Environmental Crime Down

The number of businesses, organizations and individuals charged with federal environmental crimes declined for a second straight year in 1997, to 446, the Justice Department reported.

In 1994, there were 343 defendants. The figure rose to 546 in 1995 and has declined since then, to 511 in 1996 and 446 in 1997.

Of cases concluded in 1997, 85 percent resulted in convictions. Of individuals convicted, about one in four was sent to prison, the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said. The average prison term was 21.5 months, but half the sentences were for a year or less.

Federal prosecutors investigated 952 potential criminal cases, up from 909 in 1996 but down from 986 in 1995. Of these investigations, 53 percent involved alleged violations of wildlife protection laws, and 47 percent involved alleged environmental polluters.

Reporting Crimes Against Children

Only 28 percent of violent crimes against children are reported to police, a much smaller proportion than the 48 percent of violent crimes against adults that police are told about, the Justice Department said Monday.

Even when a weapon was used against a child or the child was injured, the police were less likely to find out about such attacks than when an adult was the victim, according to the department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

One factor in the underreporting is that 16 percent of violent crimes against children--ages 12 to 17--are reported to other authorities, such as school officials, instead of police, the study said. But even including reports to other authorities, violence against children is reported just 44 percent of the time, compared with 55 percent for adults.

"There is a cultural predisposition, shared by parents, youth and police, to view nonsexual assaults against juveniles as something other than crimes--rather as fights, scuffles or child maltreatment--and therefore not suitable for police reporting," said the report.