Sunday, November 4, 2007
Here in San Diego, there has been a shortage of police officers since around 2005.
How scary is that?
Fewer officers on the streets to prevent crime.
Fewer officers to intervene when crime happens.
And what about traffic?
With fewer officers on the highways writing tickets, people will be out of control and there will be more accidents… right?
The officer shortage has gotten so bad, that this year the police are attempting to strong arm the city by denying liquor licenses to restaurants in the hopes that disrupting business will force the city to address this important issue.
But how important is it to get more cops on the streets?
First of all, car accidents have dropped so much here in California that insurance companies are giving us discounts.
And San Diego's crime rates have been steadily dropping all across the board.
I'm just going to come right out and say it: Fewer Cops = Less Crime.
Okay, but San Diego is just one city, right? Surely Fewer Cops = Less Crime can't possibly be the norm?
Actually, Fewer Cops = Less Crime is a national trend with most major cities experiencing a shortage of police coinciding with lower crime rates.
No, wait, it's an international trend! Tijuana lowered it's crime rate, not by getting rid of their police, but by disarming them.
For some of us, this data just makes perfect sense; cops are bullies with badges and guns who incite nearly as much crime and violence as they thwart.
But most Americans can't see the Fewer Cops = Less Crime equation even when the numbers are staring them in the face, so let me give you an example.
Several years ago when I could still stomach the fascist TV show COPS, I watched two officers on bicycles ride past a grungy long-haired man at a bus stop and spot an easy target. The officers stopped to question the man, apparently because it was well past the time that the busses run. The man looked alarmed and explained that he was just sitting there. At some point, the officers decided to search him and found a pocket knife in his back pocket. The scene ended with the cops wrestling the man to the ground and shoving him in the back of a cruiser.
Now, this is a perfect example of a "crime" that only occurred because the police were there to incite one. The man was not threatening or hurting anyone. He was literally just sitting there.
I'm not saying that we should completely get rid of police; they are a necessary evil. I'm just saying that we need to recognize the Fewer Cops = Less Crime equation and try to find the optimum ratio of police to citizens.
And the next time you open the paper and see a headline that says there is a police shortage, take a moment to call your mayor or city councilman and congratulate them on a job well done.
(Special thanks to Louis Netter for his "Keeping the Peace" illustration.)