Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Refund the Police

From a piece on the Niskanen Center site by four economists, based on their recent NBER working paper.
"We find that expanding police personnel leads to reductions in serious crime. With respect to homicide, we find that every 10-17 officers hired abate one new homicide per year. In per capita terms the effects are approximately twice as large for Black victims. In short, larger police forces save lives and the lives saved are disproportionately Black lives....
When cities hire more police officers, there is a decline in “index” crimes — serious offenses like robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries that have high social costs and sometimes lead to a prison spell. Critically, arrests for these types of crimes decline too. Why would a larger police force reduce serious crime while also making fewer arrests for that type of crime? The answer lies in the ability of a larger police force to deter offending from happening in the first place. For example, police force expansion leads to an especially large decline in arrests for street crimes like robbery and vehicle thefts — crimes for which more cops on the street might be a particularly effective deterrent. Because fewer crimes are committed, there are fewer people to arrest. Interestingly, the decline in index crime arrests is four to six times larger for Black civilians than whites, which suggests that investments in policing are unlikely to have contributed to the massive and racially disparate growth in the scale of incarceration in the United States during the last four decades."

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