More cops, less crime? To hear Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and challenger Peter McLaughlin say it, that’s a foregone conclusion, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In St. Paul, Mayor Randy Kelly and challenger Chris Coleman are saying more or less the same thing. The same political rhetoric is dominating mayoral races in cities as diverse as New York, Cleveland, and Los Angeles.
A review of recent research shows that it’s far from clear that flooding a city’s streets with cops is a primary deterrent to foiling the crimes that most worry voters: homicides, armed robbery, and sexual assaults. There is evidence that increasing the number of officers can, indeed, slightly reduce overall crime rates. “For a long time, the conventional thinking was that more cops don’t mean less crime, but that’s been turned upside down in the past 10 years as police departments have gotten so much federal funding they could put so many more cops on the street,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. Former Minneapolis Chief Tony Bouza doesn’t buy it. “Cops have nothing to do with the crime rate, and anyone who says so is an idiot,” he said. “They’re irrelevant to preventing crime — they just displace it to another area.” Economist Steven Levitt, coauthor of “Freakonomics,” says that each additional officer on the street can eliminate eight to 10 serious crimes, a “social benefit” worth roughly $100,000 per officer per year.