* LongBeachReport.com | LBReport.com | RAND Study Says Increasing Police Reduces Crimes And Brings Multiple Benefits Exceeding Costs...And LA Police Chief Beck Cites It And His Own Experience As Police Professional In Urging LA Council Not To Cut Cops


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RAND Study Says Increasing Police Reduces Crimes And Brings Multiple Benefits Exceeding Costs; LA Police Chief Beck Cites It & His Own Experience As Police Professional In Urging LA Council Not To Cut Cops; Hear LA Council Exchange

(April 16, 2010) -- A recently released RAND Corporation study says data from multiple previous studies indicate that increasing police produces reductions in some crimes...and brings multiple benefits exceeding costs...and L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck cited the RAND study earlier this week (April 14) in urging the L.A. City Council not to delay LAPD replenishment police academy classes (to balance L.A. City Hall's budget).

L.A. City Council webcast

LBReport.com provides below on-demand audio of salient portions of the exchange between LAPD Chief Beck and Councilmembers on the issue at the April 14 L.A. City Council meeting.

The L.A. City Council, currently facing a cash crunch (seeking a DWP rate increase and money transfer to keep meeting payroll) and also expecting red ink entering its new budget year (starting July 1) approved (for now) replenishment police academies to maintain LAPD at current staffing level ("hiring to attrition")...but some L.A. Councilmembers objected to the costs that they said could bring major cuts to other City services.

During the Council exchange, LAPD Chief Beck said maintaining the size of the L.A.P.D. was crucial -- and said cutting LAPD levels would increase crimes -- citing his own experience as a police professional as well as the RAND study.

LAPD Chief Beck: ...The size of the Police Department is critical. I know that 1%, or slightly less than 1%, doesn't sound like much, but if you believe the RAND study, the current RAND study, done by the best economic experts in this state or and maybe in this country, a 1% reduction in the size of a police department equates to a 1% increase in the homicide rate. It equates to a .5[%] increase in robbery rates. I can give you the exact numbers [cites them for L.A.] This is just based on a 1% cut. This is what I do for a living, and you all confirmed me because you know I'm an expert in this and these are my projections.

To hear the L.A. City Council exchange (including Chief Beck's comments starting at 3:27), click here.

(The first L.A. Councilman heard is Dennis Zine (supports replenishment police academies), the second is Paul Koretz (seeks to send issue to working group on issue), followed by LAPD Chief Beck at 3:27. "Whoosh" sound indicates audio edit.)

In September 2009, LB's City Council did what LAPD Chief Beck urged the LA Council not to do...and went further. LB Councilmembers cut a scheduled replenishment police academy class (17 budgeted positions, ensuring LB's police levels would decline with retirements) and simultaneously cut 59 sworn officers from LBPD's budgeted staffing (which was already thinner per capita than L.A.'s).

Los Angeles currently budgets roughly 2.5 officers per thousand residents. Signal Hill currently budgets roughly 3.0 officers per thousand residents. Long Beach (L.A. County's second largest city) currently budgets fewer than 1.8 officers per thousand residents (available for citywide deployment, not including non-General Fund Port/Airport/LBUSD/LBCC officers paid by those entities for service at those sites).

The issue facing L.A.'s City Council on April 14 was whether to let L.A.P.D's ranks fall with attrition by roughly one half of one percent. The cut implemented by the LB City Council in September 2009 amounted to nearly 8% (17+59/961 if not budgeting a replenishment police academy is included).

LB's City Council recently committed to a management-recommended lateral-hire Police Academy class (expected to produce an estimated 10 officers)...but LB's Council hasn't consensed on when to begin a replenishment police academy class in FY11 (begins Oct. 2010). LB city management has recommended leaving that discussion to the upcoming budget process...which typically begins seriously with public release of a management proposed budget in August...with voted Council decisions between Labor Day and mid-September.

In early 1994, LB City Hall released a Police Dept. "Strategic Plan" (jointly prepared by city management and the City Auditor's office). The heavily promoted document (which was non-binding) was released entering the election cycle that brought Beverly O'Neill to power) and included what it called a management-prepared "preliminary staffing strategy" that recommended gradually increasing LB's police levels over six years to reach 1,023 sworn officers by FY2000.

The 1,023 officers never materialized for LB taxpayers. The highest General Fund level budgeted by the Council for citywide deployment (not including Port/LGB/LBCC/LBUSD funded/tasked) was roughly 961 before the national financial sector meltdown.

The Council's Sept. 2009 budget vote cut LB's budgeted sworn officer level to 885 (General Fund officers available for citywide deployment, not Port/Airport/LBCC/LBUSD funded/tasked)...and city management acknowledged a few weeks ago that there are now over 20 vacant positions...meaning the current level is roughly 865...or lower.

In 2006, candidate Bob Foster ran on a platform pledging to increase police on the street by over 100 during his first term of office -- and was on his way to meeting that goal -- until the national economic downturn; he has since justified cutting LB officers to balance City Hall's budget...and LB taxpayers now receive a per capita level roughly equivalent to what it was when Mayor Ernie Kell left and Mayor Beverly O'Neill took office in 1994.

L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck, who was L.A. Deputy Chief under former L.A. Chief Bill Bratton, was named L.A.'s new chief over three finalists that included then-Assistant LAPD Chief Jim McDonnell. LBPD Chief McDonnell indicated that he favors finding ways to avoid further LBPD reductions while doing the best possible given City Hall's current budget constraints...and favors using new technologies and building new community partnerships to help reduce crime.

When asked directly by Councilmembers about LBPD staffing, he has acknowledged that LBPD's staffing is lean compared to L.A. in terms of officers to population.

The RAND study states in key section:

How Much Do Additional Police Reduce Crime?

As we did earlier, we combine results from several studies to develop estimates of the expected decrease in crime that would occur if we increase the police force by 1 percent in a typical department. Table 4 reports the effect estimates by crime category for the multiple published studies...

Heaton, RAND Study, Hidden in Plain Sight, p. 11

Although effect estimates vary from study to study, the general message is that, once the identification problem is adequately addressed, increases in police staffing levels do generate measurable decreases in crime. The final column (bolded and shaded) combines information across studies by averaging the effects estimates using a process known as metaanalysis. [footnote omitted] In our cost/benefit calculations, we use the combined impact estimates as our baseline measures of the effects of police on crime. For example, the 0.927 combined impact reported for homicide means that, in a typical department, we expect that a 1-percent increase in the number of sworn officers would decrease the number of homicides in that departmentís patrol area by 0.927 percent. Although the combined impact is negative for rape and larceny, these values are not statistically significantly different from zero. Given that we cannot confidently claim from existing studies that adding police will have a nonzero effect on rape and larceny, we further adopt the conservative assumption that police have no impact on rates of rape or larceny when we do our cost/benefit analyses [later in the study].

When evaluating specific policy proposals, it is important to remember that these statistical estimates of the effectiveness of police are designed to assess the effects of modest variations in police force size while holding other social factors constant at their observed levels. This means that these estimates are most useful for projecting the effects of small to modest changes in the number of police and may be less informative about large changes in force size, such as a 50-percent decrease in the number of officers.

Moreover, the applicability of these estimates to any particular city will depend on the similarity between that city and those examined in these studies. Evans and Owens (2007) and Levitt (1997, 2002) focus on a broad cross-section of large to medium-sized U.S. cities and thus are likely to capture effects for a typical U.S. city. The other studies focus on particular large metropolitan departments. Because we lack credible city-specific estimates of the effectiveness of police, in order to do cost/benefit calculations, we must generically apply these estimates to specific cities. Yet, clearly, in actuality, there will be variation across cities in police effectiveness.

In a general sense, the cost/benefit calculus depends on the distribution of crimes within a particular city and the expected cost of hiring more police.

Localities with smaller police forces or lower costs per officer will tend to fare better in these calculations because they can achieve a given percentage change in force size with lower expenditures. Policing investment in cities with large numbers of high-cost crimes, such as homicide, will also appear better because there are significant gains from crime reduction in such settings...

Subject to the caveats noted previously about the generalizability of the cost and effectiveness estimates, the approach illustrated in the two examples can be applied to any locality for which there are available data on crime counts, current police staffing levels, and the cost of hiring or separating additional officers...

A release accompanying issuance of the RAND study notes (release text):

Crime costs are directly borne by victims, insurers, and government, but Heaton notes that it also is important to consider the costs borne by society in general. Additionally, policymakers should consider both the tangible costs, such as a victim's medical bills or lost productivity, as well as the intangible costs, such as a reduced quality of life in a crime-ridden neighborhood.

Applying existing methodologies for estimating the costs of crime to recent crime data suggests that the costs of crime to society are large. For example, the study estimates that in 2006, serious crime cost the residents of Houston $5.7 billion and the residents of Chicago $8.3 billion.

The study also examines research on the effects of police on controlling crime, focusing on those studies that are designed to overcome the "confounding problem," which arises because crimes rates are affected by many other factors besides the number of police, such as population density. Studies that effectively isolate the impacts of additional officers from other factors consistently find that police reduce crime.

Finally, the study applies cost-benefit analyses to two real-world cases: a proposal to increase the police force in Los Angeles, and a proposal to decrease it in Toledo, Ohio. In both cases, analysis shows the benefits of having additional officers and preventing crime outweigh the personnel costs. For example, the study projects that an approximately 10 percent expansion of the police force in Los Angeles, begun in 2005, would generate about $475 million in annual crime reduction benefits, substantially above the $125 million to $150 million annual cost of the officers.

[Study author] Heaton said every analytical method covered in the study has its pros and cons, and the choice of modeling assumptions will influence the outcomes of the cost-benefit calculations.

"Policymakers need to ask questions about how these studies are designed, because there really isn't a one-size-fits-all template," Heaton said. "If your city has substantial numbers of certain types of crimes -- such as fraud or weapons violations -- you're going to want to focus on studies with more refined assumptions about the costs of those crimes."

Member agencies of the RAND Center on Quality Policing Research Consortium asked RAND to develop a cost-benefit analysis of police and crime. These include police departments in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami-Dade, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The California Communities Foundation, the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Los Angeles Police Foundation, and the Houston Police Foundation also support the research consortium.

The study, Hidden in Plain Sight: What Cost of Crime Research Can Tell us About Investing in Police," is on RAND.org.

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