Special Report

America's Most Heavily Policed Cities

Police departments across the country have faced rapidly shifting public sentiment in recent years. The 2020 murder of George Floyd by a police officer spawned large-scale protests and calls to defund the police in communities across the United States at a time when violent crime rates – particularly homicide – were on the rise. 

Up against these and other social and political pressures, law enforcement agencies nationwide are also dealing with recruitment challenges and rising rates of attrition. One national survey of about 200 U.S. police departments found that retirements surged by 45% and resignations climbed by 18% from April 2020 to April 2021.

While some communities are struggling with police staffing shortages, many U.S. cities have managed to avoid those problems and still employ a relatively large police force.

Using data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s most heavily policed cities. Cities are ranked by the total number of police officers – excluding civilian police employees – for every 1,000 people in their department’s jurisdiction. Only places with at least 50,000 residents were considered. 

Across all U.S. cities, there are 2.2 police officers for every 1,000 people on average. Among the cities on this list, the number of police ranges from about 2.5 per 1,000 to 5.3 per 1,000. The cities on this list are located almost exclusively in the South and the Northeast. (Here is a look at the states with the most police officers.) 

The high concentration of police officers in these places does not necessarily mean they are safe places. On the contrary, the vast majority of cities on this list have a higher violent crime rate than the U.S. average of 399 crimes for every 100,000 people, and in 23 of these cities, the violent crime rate is more than double the national rate. The relatively large police forces in these cities are likely a reflection of need in the face of high crime. (Here is a look at the most dangerous states to be a police officer.) 

In two cities on this list – Bayonne, New Jersey and Yonkers, New York – the violent crime rate is well below average. These places are relatively prosperous, each with median household incomes exceeding the national median of $64,994 by about $5,000. Because police departments typically receive the bulk of their funding at the local level, the strong tax base may help explain the higher-than-average police employment.

Click here to see America’s most heavily policed cities.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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