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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What's the real reason for the demonstration?

Two police studies

Comments about the “more cops won’t lead to less crime” posts (1) addressed the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grants and a study using “Terrorist Threat level” responses of police saturation to predict the cost effectiveness of increased police patrol. (2)

The “Terrorist Threat” study, using intermittent periods of increased police presence – up to about 50% over the usual -- did not affect violent crime. It did seem to reduce larceny during the presence of additional police officers. That would be a “no brainer.” However, the economic benefit of having 50% more police on duty to deter 15% of petty larcenies wasn't quantified.

How much does it cost

The calculations, which would have be be based upon police wages in Washington D.C. at the time, must consider the healthcare and retirement costs. LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers) have priced themselves out of the market in a lot of areas, much like the auto workers did in Detroit.

The study used valid regression techniques but projected that crime decreases during patrol surges would continue if the 150% patrol officer level were continued. That's certainly arguable.

Our major concern is; how does one determine the value of the deterred crimes?  If additional police presence deterred 10% of the burglaries for a while, how much money would be saved? It would seem logical that crimes committed in the open – “smash and grab” and stealing the wheels off a car would be attenuated during intensified patrolling. Removal of sound systems in a secluded area, or from the back of a business wouldn’t be affected.

How much of the stolen material in the affected area is insured – and compensated by insurance – and how much is replaced with stolen goods or not replaced at all? Stolen goods cost less, usually, but it’s difficult to compute a cost to society if a mirror is stolen and replaced with one stolen elsewhere.

So, the cost of hiring enough officers to put 50% more on the street, to reduce larceny 15% in Washington D.C. isn't available, even as speculation. The cost of 150% on-the-street could be calculated for Costa Mesa, but we don't know the effect.

Perhaps we could "rent" cops from the sheriff or neighboring departments to determine the effect of an increase in patrol strength -- before we invested many millions of dollars (over their careers) in the increased level. If a 50% increase in "boots on the street" caused a 15% decrease in petty crime, would Costa Mesa citizens be willing to pay, say, and additional $5000 a year (and more each year) in property taxes?

COPS grant effects

Another comment concerned the effects of COPS grants. One study postulated that there was no effect on crime rates, but the Department of Justice’s own study suggested that a decrease followed but it was minor and questionable.

COPS MORE was part of the program and addressed crime prevention programs such as Neighborhood Watch. And, since the grants resulted in very few more officers on duty (<1%) at any time, the premise of “more boots on the ground means less crime” wasn't really tested.

The best reasonably current guesses we found were that crime suppression after COPS grants is due primarily to recipients using improved patrol tactics and increasing community involvement through crime prevention programs.

A knee-jerk demonstration advocating throwing more cops at an increased petty crime rate in Costa Mesa can’t be taken seriously as an answer. It might serve as an attack on the Council majority. Or it may be a counter by a beleaguered Police union.

Let your people do what they most like to do, according to Alinsky

And, some people enjoy the catharsis of “raging against the machine” regardless of how misguided it may be.

But, cui bono? Who benefits?

(1) Recent 
Farther back

(2) Study

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