COPS Program Had Only Minor Impact On Crime: GAO


The federal Community Oriented Policing Services program (COPS) started by President Bill Clinton had only a small impact on the crime deline the nation experienced in the 1990s, says the federal Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog agency. In an extensive review of the program, GAO concluded that “factors other than COPS funds accounted for the majority of the decline in crime.” Between 1993 and 2000, crime fell by 26 percent. About 1.3 percent of the drop was due to COPS, the GAO estimated.

GAO also contested the Clinton administration’s repeated contention that COPS added 100,000 community-policing officers to the nation’s law enforcement agencies. GAO estimated that COPS added “about 88,000 additional officer-years.” GAO affirmed that the problem-solving approaches emphasized by the COPS program can be effective in reducing crime. In comments on the report, administrators of the COPS program said it had other effects on policing that were not measured by the GAO report. In requesting the GAO report, members of Congress asked for a focus on the COPS program’s impact on crime and on the number of police officers nationwide.


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