The U.S. Employs 35% Fewer Cops Than the World Average
Here’s a fact bound to surprise the “defund the police” crowd – the United States employs 35% fewer police per-capita than the world average. If anything, the case to be made is one for re-funding the police
According to George Mason University Economics Professor Alex Tabarrok:
The U.S. employs many more prison guards per-capita than does the rest of the world. Given our prison population that isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that on a per-capita basis we employ 35% fewer police than the world average. That’s crazy.
While the U.S. employs fewer police, we do spend far more on incarceration than the world average. While progressives are quick to blame various “root causes of crime” for our relative over-incarceration, deterrence resulting from an increased police presence could also help reduce incarceration by preventing crimes from being committed in the first place.
Economist Gary Becker famously argued that the ideal way to reduce crime would be for criminals to have a low probability of being caught, but very high punishments for those who do get caught. Tabarrok argues that the opposite would be more efficient – that a high probability of getting caught would be more effective, as fewer criminals would think they won’t be the ones unfortunate enough to be caught and pay a high price.
Increasing the number of police on the street, for example, would increase capture rates and deter crime and by doing so it would also reduce the prison population. Indeed, in a survey of crime and policing that Jon Klick and I wrote in 2010 we found that a cost-benefit analysis would justify doubling the number of police on the street. We based our calculation not only on our own research from Washington DC but also on the research of many other economists which together provide a remarkably consistent estimate that a 10% increase in policing would reduce crime by 3 to 5%. Using our estimates, as well as those of some more recent papers, the Council of Economic Advisers also estimates big benefits (somewhat larger than ours) from an increase in policing. Moreover, what the CEA makes clear is that a dollar spent on policing is more effective at reducing crime than a dollar spent on imprisoning.
Fortunately the “defund the police” movement is wildly unpopular. Only about 2 in 10 Americans support the “defund the police movement,” and the majority of African-Americans oppose it despite being the demographic the left’s crazies (redundant, I know) claim to be supporting it to help.