Police

Reducing Crime Doesn't Necessarily Require More Cops

In fact, they may be part of the problem

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Reforming pensions, spending less money on gadgets (the state's alcohol-control cops just spent $70,000 for gas masks and bulletproof helmets, according to the Sacramento Bee) and outsourcing services seems more prudent than always hitting up taxpayers for more loot. But don't expect to hear those discussions anytime soon.

It would also be nice for police officials to show some humility and admit that there's far more to stopping crime than giving them more money. Last May, the Washington, D.C., City Council had a debate over police staffing and faced similar warnings of a coming bloodbath. A Washington Post columnist, Mike DeBonis, talked to a prominent criminologist who had reviewed 27 studies evaluating the possible link between police staffing and crime rates. "Almost half of the studies found no relationship between the two," DeBonis wrote. "Of the remainder, more found that crime increased as police levels rose."

Criminologists argue that everything from cultural values to the average age of the population to varying policing strategies have much to do with crime rates. A cursory look at FBI data shows no obvious correlation between police staffing levels and crime rates.