How Significant Is Police Officer-Population Ratio?


With murders in Baltimore threatening to hit 300 this year, the solution proposed by nearly every political candidate is to add more police. What no one appears to have asked is, “Will it work?,” says the Baltimore Examiner. Statistics suggest it's not the answer. “With [the] police-to-population ratio, you would think the bigger the rate gets, the lower crime would be, but when you look at the crime numbers you sometimes see the exact opposite,” said Michael White, criminologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Says Sheldon Greenberg, director of the Division of Public Safety at Johns Hopkins University, “There is no correlation between crime rate or anything else and the number of officers. It's all political rhetoric.” Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York staff 4.5 officers per 1,000 residents, which is above the national norm reported by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics of 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents. “Where you put officers is more important than how many you have,” Greenberg said. “You always staff patrol first – if officers cannot adequately respond to calls from citizens, then everything else suffers.” On average, he said, police departments allocate 60 percent to 65 percent of officers to patrol. In Baltimore, the number is far lower – 52 percent.


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