Are Americans paying too much for police? Police departments have grown dramatically in size since the mid-1990s, when federal funding first put thousands of new cops on the streets.
During the same period, the national homicide rate dropped, but over time, police spending has outpaced the corresponding decreases in crime, reports Politico. Since 1995, the year after the landmark national crime bill went into effect, the U.S. homicide rate has dropped by a third.
Police spending per capita has increased by 46 percent nationally, and in some cities, by far more.
According to an Urban Institute study, city and state spending on police has tripled since 1977.
Some studies have shown that an increase in police officers reduces crime, but more spending in other areas such as social welfare, access to health care, employment, and other social services can also contribute to falling crime rates.
“There are other factors that affect [crime] beyond simply just the police’s presence,” said Howard Henderson of the Texas Southern University Center for Justice Research.
Cities with similar homicide rates may spend vastly different amounts on policing. For example, both Long Beach, Ca., and Mesa, Az., saw 4.7 homicides per 100,000 population in 2017. That year, Long Beach spent about $1,500 per resident on police, while Mesa spent $800. New York City spent $3.4 billion on policing in 1994. That year, the city saw 1,561 homicides.
If that spending ratio had held constant, New York would have spent less than $1 billion in 2017, as a decades-long drop in violence reduced the need for policing.
See also: Why Defunding Won’t Reform Police