Special Report

Cities With the Most and Least Police

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The size of a city’s police force is clearly related to the amount of crime in the city.

Of the 50 cities with the most police officers per capita, 38 have violent crimes rates that exceed the national rate of 450 per 100,000 people, and 39 have property crime rates that exceed the national property crime rate of 2,852 incidents per 100,000 people. Crime data is unavailable for three of the 50 cities.

Demonstrating the effect the number of police has on crime is extremely difficult. When crime rates rise, hiring by police departments tends to increase as well. However, there is very little evidence to suggest that increasing the number of police officers results in a reduction in crime levels.While a certain number of police officers is required for effective policing, other efforts such as focusing on police-community relations has been shown to be more effective than merely adding police to the patrol.

Cities with the largest police forces also tend have lower-income populations.Beverly Hills, California; Naples, Florida; and Key West, Florida, are notable exceptions — each with median household incomes well above the national annual median of $55,322.

Places that are poor often have high crime rates, but there are, of course, exceptions to this pattern, and the reasons such areas experience higher crime rates are far from definitive. Over the past 50 years, there has been a trend of reducing public investment in city services such as police, fire, school, public works, housing. This trend may have played a role in leading to more crime.

To identify the cities with the most and least police officers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of police department employees for every 100,000 city residents from the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Cities are defined by the FBI and may include townships, counties, villages, and regional departments. The number of employees, the number of state institutions, and the city violent and property crime rates also came from the FBI UCR. Police employment includes both officers (“individuals who ordinarily carry a firearm and a badge, have full arrest powers, and are paid from governmental funds set aside specifically to pay sworn law enforcement”), and civilians (“full-time agency personnel such as clerks, radio dispatchers, meter attendants, stenographers, jailers, correctional officers, and mechanics”), as defined by the FBI. Median household incomes, poverty rates, and educational attainment came from the U.S Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and consist of 5-year averages between 2011-2016.

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