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If Violent Crime Rate is at 40-Year Low, Why is U.S. Spending S100 Billion a Year on Police?

By Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
AllGov

May 30, 2012 ----  From the amount of money spent each year in the United States on law enforcement, one might assume crime continues to be a growing problem.

But that’s not the case at all. 

Crime rates today are at their lowest levels in 30 years and the rate of violent crime has dipped to a 39-year low. Yet the number of arrests between 2009 and 2010 declined only slightly, according to the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), which noted in its new report that police spending increased 445% between 1982 and 2007 and federal funding for police burgeoned by 729%. 

Meanwhile, local, state and federal governments spend more than $100 billion each year on public safety and to maintain police ranks that exceed 710,000 nationwide. 

Between 1993 and 2007 arrests for violent crimes dropped 27% and property crime arrests 22%. With fewer violent and property crimes being committed, the burgeoning ranks of police departments have concentrated on other offenses, particularly those related to the illegal drug trade. During the same period, drug-related arrests climbed 45%. The report notes that “Although Blacks make up 13 percent of the population, they make up 31 percent of arrests for drug offenses.” 

“These arrests, often for possession of very small amounts of drugs, carry tremendous costs both to society and to the people involved, who must then face the rest of their life with the collateral consequences of a criminal record,” the JPI wrote. 

The think tank suggested politicians redirect funding more toward “true community-based and collaborative policing efforts” as well as alternative programs and initiatives that “promote healthy safe communities.” 

It suggested that law enforcement concentrate on serious offenses and, for low-level offenses, issue citations rather than pursue arrests.

 

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